China: Net tightens on Beijing activists as Olympic Games approach
"Intensified censorship and attacks and abductions of peaceful activists by suspected security officials in Beijing make a mockery of official promises to improve human rights in the run-up to the Olympics," said Tim Parritt, Deputy Program Director of Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Program today, in response to the ongoing crackdown against human rights lawyers and other activists in Beijing.
Teng Biao -- a lawyer, academic and human rights activist -- has gone missing after eyewitnesses saw him being bundled into a vehicle just after he arrived home at around 8.30pm yesterday. He has not been heard from since and attempts to reach him on his mobile phone have failed.
In a separate case, at around 7.20am today, human rights lawyer Li Heping’s car was rammed by a police car while he was driving his son to school in Beijing. He and his son were jolted by the crash but are not thought to have suffered serious injuries.
The police car had been following him from his home and apparently accelerated before the crash. Li Heping recognized the three officers in the car as being from his police district. He claims the driver of the car ignored him when he confronted him about the crash and traffic police refused to take up the case when he reported the incident to them later in the day. In September 2007 Li Heping was abducted by unidentified men, beaten with electro-shock batons and told he should leave Bejing or risk further attacks.
“The targeting of two human rights lawyers over the last two days suggests that the stranglehold on activists in Beijing is tightening in the run up to the Olympics,” said Tim Paritt.
“We are seriously concerned for the safety of Li Heping and Teng Biao. The authorities must conduct a full, impartial investigation into both incidents and provide information on the whereabouts of Teng Biao,” Tim Parritt said.
Amnesty International also said that human rights activists are being detained for their peaceful legitimate activities.
Police recently passed the files of detained human rights activist Hu Jia to prosecutors, suggesting that he may soon be brought to trial on charges of “inciting subversion” which is used regularly to silence and imprison peaceful activists in China. Hu Jia was detained in December 2007 and officials served the arrest notice to his family on January 30. Concerns remain that the police have put pressure on Hu Jia to 'confess' to the 'crimes'. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience and has called for his immediate and unconditional release.
Internet censorship has also tightened over recent weeks, particularly targeting Beijing-based groups working on HIV/AIDS.
On 5 March, the Beijing Aizhixing Institute of Health Education was ordered to remove unspecified ‘illegal information’ from its website, and the site was temporarily shut down. It is believed the order may relate to information on the site about Hu Jia, who co-founded the Institute as part of his advocacy on HIV/AIDS issues.
Background information It is possible that Teng Biao’s abduction is linked to the case against Hu Jia. The police had already warned Teng Biao not to get involved in Hu Jia’s case following Hu Jia’s formal detention in December 2007. The two had co-authored an article entitled “The real China and the Olympics” on human rights violations in China, which was published in September 2007. See: http://hujiachina.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!2E61195DD50A5E9A!327.entry English translations have recently been published by Human Rights in China: http://hrichina.org/public/PDFs/CRF.4.2007/CRF-2007-4_Situation.pdf
Hu Jia has been allowed to meet members of his family and a lawyer, although police denied him access to his other lawyer, citing the involvement of state secrets in his case. His meetings are monitored by several police officers and he has not been able to speak freely. After their first meeting with him on 31 January 2008, his family expressed concern that he seemed pale, under stress and speaking as if he were rehearsing a play. Hu Jia suffers from liver disease as a result of Hepatitis B infection. The police have reportedly given him some medicine, but it is unclear exactly what this is and whether it is appropriate for his illness. For further information see Amnesty International Urgent Action, UA 01/08, ASA 17/035/2008, 2 January 2008 http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA17/035/2008/en and update ASA 17/047/2008, 1 February 2008. http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA17/047/2008/en
Li Heping had previously been abducted and assaulted by a group of unidentified men on 29 September 2007. He was beaten with electro-shock batons and told he should leave Beijing or risk further attack. He was released after about eight hours. The incident occurred shortly after police had told Li Heping to leave Beijing during the 17th Communist Party Congress, held in October 2007. For further information, see Amnesty International Urgent Action, UA 253/07, ASA 17/046/2007, 3 October 2007 http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA17/046/2007/en and update ASA 17/064/2007, 21 December 2007. http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA17/064/2007/en