Outrage over government manual for bashing citizens


A brutal official manual highlights indifference about human rights in China, writes CLIFFORD COONANin Beijing

“LEAVE NO blood on the face, no wounds on the body, and no witnesses in the vicinity”.

A Chinese government manual on how to beat up troublemakers without leaving marks is causing an outcry among webizens and again highlighted human rights issues in China, despite a new government programme aimed at improving the situation.

Copies of the manual are now available in any bookshop or online, and it is aimed at urban management enforcement squads, “chengguan” who are basically bailiffs who check permits and hassle street hawkers. Often poorly-educated and brutish, the appalling reputation of the “chengguan” has been forged through regular physical conflict with unlicensed street sellers.

“Urban management officials should seize the opportunity when there are not many onlookers around. Do not hesitate. Finish the job quickly, without giving your opponents time to prepare. The whole job should be completed within 10 seconds,” runs the handbook.

“Several officials should always act together. Make sure to leave no blood on the opponent’s face, no wounds on the body, and no witnesses in the vicinity. Be calm and focused. Be a firm public official,” it said.

Online commentators were angry: “These people are like wild dogs,” wrote one, while another said: “This is a handbook for terrorists.” Another netizen from Sichuan wrote: “China’s urban management officials are just like the mafia. It is failure of our system.” Earlier this month, China’s cabinet, the state council, issued the National Human Rights Action Plan(2009–2010), which is the first time China has set out a national programme focused on human rights. It sets out goals and concrete measures for the promotion and protection of human rights during the coming two years.

However, activists say the situation remains grim. There have been stories of thuggish behaviour being used on dissidents during their arrests.

Prominent Chinese lawyer and activist Gao Zhisheng, who has not been seen nor heard from since disappearing into custody in February, wrote a shocking account of his kidnapping in September 2007, which described torture sessions he said he endured involving severe beatings, electric shocks to his genitals and burning with cigarettes.

His wife Geng He appealed to the US Congress to pressure China to disclose her husband’s whereabouts, in a letter released by the activist group, Human Rights in China. She and her two children escaped from China to Thailand and now live in the United States, where they were accepted as refugees.

Earlier this week, Amnesty International issued a global Urgent Action for Tan Zuoren, an environmental activist from Sichuan province who was detained on March 28th and whom Amnesty believes it at serious risk of torture.

“Sources in China report that they believe his detention was linked to his intent to issue a list of the names of children who died in the May 2008 Sichuan earthquake along with a report blaming corruption in state officials for the collapse of a number of schools,” the rights group said in a statement.

This week there were reports that Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche, a respected senior Tibetan monk with the title of Living Buddha, was arrested and faces charges of possession of weapons and illegally seizing state land. He faces a lengthy prison sentence and is believed to be the first senior Buddhist monk charged in connection with protests that broke out in March 2008 in Tibetan areas around China.

Also sure to raise hackles in China is news that Lou Ye, a prominent film director who was banned for five years in China in 2006 for screening Summer Palaceat the Cannes film festival without government approval, has again defied Beijing by entering another film, Spring Feverat the French film festival.

Separately, the ban on the Falun Gong spiritual movement is now entering its second decade, with no sign of any change in the government stance on the group Beijing considers an “evil cult”.