Chinese dissidents held in bid to stem revolution


THIS WEEK has seen one of the biggest round-ups of prominent dissidents and activists in China in years, as fears of “Jasmine Revolution”-style protests prompt the government to step up its crackdown on dissent.

China has told the United Nations to stay out of its affairs amid criticism of the crackdown, which has led to a marked increase in control of the internet.

Much of the campaign seems to be focused on the southwestern province of Sichuan. Chen Wei (42), a critic of China’s one-party system who lives in Sichuan, was arrested on charges of “inciting subversion of state power”, while pro-democracy writer and editor Ran Yunfei was charged with subversion for his alleged role in calling for popular uprisings in China similar to those gripping the Middle East and north Africa.

Also in the province, the writer Liu Xianbin was jailed this week on subversion charges after he published pro-reform articles online. “The situation is currently very tense,” his wife, Chen Mingxian, said. “Friends have been summoned to court and detained.”

Meanwhile, Yang Hengjun, a Chinese-born Australian spy novelist and blogger who has disappeared and who was believed to have been detained in the crackdown on political expression, contacted friends to say he was sick.

Many of the lawyers rounded up, including Teng Biao, Jiang Tianyong and Tang Jitian, remain in custody amid reports of torture.

There are ongoing fears about the fate of the most prominent of the human rights lawyers, Gao Zhisheng, who has been missing for nearly a year and who said he had been tortured during a series of detentions since 2006.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention this week said Mr Gao’s detention was in breach of international law because Beijing had failed to meet minimum international standards for due process. His wife, Geng He, wrote in a public letter that she feared he was suffering. “My husband has been tortured many times,” she wrote of the lawyer, who defended religious dissenters, including members of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement, and sought constitutional reform.

Ms Geng called on President Barack Obama to ask President Hu Jintao to let Mr Zhisheng make contact, “and if he has been killed, we should be allowed the dignity of laying him to rest”.

The Chinese government responded by saying it did not know Mr Gao’s whereabouts and told the UN to stay out of China’s business.

“China attaches importance to co-operation with the UN human rights mechanisms,” Jiang Yu said. “We also urge these mechanisms to maintain an objective and impartial attitude and to respect China’s judicial sovereignty.”