January 30, 2008

Dissident’s Arrest Hints at Olympic Crackdown

Dissident’s Arrest Hints at Olympic Crackdown

BEIJING — When state security agents burst into his apartment last month, Hu Jia was chatting on Skype, the Internet-based telephone system. Mr. Hu’s computer was his most potent tool. He disseminated information about human rights cases, peasant protests and other politically touchy topics even though he often lived under de facto house arrest.

Mr. Hu, 34, and his wife, Zeng Jinyan, are human rights advocates who spent much of 2006 restricted to their apartment in a complex with the unlikely name of Bo Bo Freedom City. She blogged about life under detention, while he videotaped a documentary titled “Prisoner in Freedom City.” Their surreal existence seemed to reflect an official uncertainty about how, and whether, to shut them up.

That ended on Dec. 27. Mr. Hu was dragged away on charges of subverting state power while Ms. Zeng was bathing their newborn daughter, Qianci. Telephone and Internet connections to the apartment were severed. Mother and daughter are now under house arrest. Qianci, barely 2 months old, is probably the youngest political prisoner in China.

For human rights advocates and Chinese dissidents, Mr. Hu’s detention is the most telling example of what they describe as a broadening crackdown on dissent as Beijing prepares to play host to the Olympic Games in August. In recent months, several dissidents have been jailed, including a former factory worker in northeastern China who collected 10,000 signatures after posting an online petition titled “We Want Human Rights, Not the Olympics.”

January 10, 2008

The bullet or the needle

A change in technique for the world's busiest executioners?

China's leaders love talking about all the indicators that show China leading the world. Whether it is growth rates, production figures or trade volumes, officials relish any chance to unleash a barrage of dazzling statistics. They are less gung-ho about another category where China leaves the world trailing: use of the death penalty. Indeed, the number of Chinese criminal executions remains a state secret.

Foreign human-rights groups make valiant efforts to scour local press reports and tally the sums, but reckon they hear about only a fraction of the cases. In 2006 Amnesty International, a human-rights lobbying group, counted 2,790 people sentenced to death in China and 1,010 executed. Other groups put annual executions at 7,500 or more. Even per head, using low estimates, China probably outstrips every country but Singapore. It also has a greater number of capital offences than anywhere else: more than 60. These include murder and other violent crimes, but also smuggling, drug trafficking and many “economic crimes” such as bribe-taking, embezzlement and even tax evasion.

This month it was revealed that China is planning a big change. The traditional method of execution—a single bullet to the back of the convict's head—is to be replaced by a lethal injection. Jiang Xingchang, of the Supreme People's Court, told the press this is because injections are considered “more humane”.

June 11, 2007

Chinese Leave Guantánamo for Albanian Limbo

Chinese Leave Guantánamo for Albanian Limbo

The men, Muslims from western China’s Uighur ethnic minority, were freed from their confinement in Cuba after they were found to pose no threat to the United States. They have now lived for more than a year in a squalid government refugee center on the grubby outskirts of Tirana, guarded by armed policemen.

The men have been told that they will need to get work to move out of the center, they said, but that they must learn the Albanian language to get work permits. For now, they subsist on free meals heavy with macaroni and rice, and monthly stipends of about $67, which they spend mostly on brief telephone calls to their families. But some of the men have already lost hope of ever seeing their wives and children again.

Many American officials privately describe the Uighurs’ plight as one of the more troubling episodes of the Bush administration’s detention program. The case also provides a view of the remarkable difficulties Washington has encountered in trying to winnow the detainee population at Guantánamo in response to domestic and international criticism.

The refugees in Tirana seem to have little sense of how to influence the global chess game in which they have become involved. They spend most of their days behind the refugee center’s high, cinderblock walls, reading the Koran, studying Albanian and waiting for a turn on the center’s lone desktop computer. They avoid the gravelly soccer field because it reminds them of one they looked out on at Guantánamo.

February 26, 2007

Rivals Seek to Expand Freedoms in China

Rivals Seek to Expand Freedoms in China

Interesting article about two human rights lawyers in China.

They divide into camps on the fundamental question of whether to try to improve the current Communist Party-run system by supporting well-intentioned party leaders, or to seek an end to Communist rule. “Some of us are waiting for a good emperor, some kind of Gorbachev, to come and fix the system,” Li Jianqiang said. “Many of the rest of us think that is a waste of time. We need to be building a civilization outside the Communist Party.”

February 16, 2007

China Covers Up Detention of AIDS Doctor

China Covers Up Detention of AIDS Doctor

The photograph and article in Tuesday’s Henan Daily could have been headlined “Happy Holidays.” Three highranking Henan Province officials, beaming and clapping as if presenting a lottery check, were making an early Lunar New Year visit to the apartment of a renowned AIDS doctor, Gao Yaojie.

They gave her flowers. Dr. Gao, 80, squinted toward the camera, surely understanding that pictures can lie. She was under house arrest to prevent her from getting a visa to accept an honor in Washington. Her detention attracted international attention, and the photo op was a sham, apparently intended to say, “Look, she’s fine and free as a bird.”

On Thursday, Dr. Gao said in a telephone interview, a handful of police officers remained stationed outside her apartment building in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou.

“I just can’t simply swallow it all,” she said. “I want to know two things. First, who has made the decision? I am an 80-year-old lady, and what crimes have I committed to deserve this? Second, they must find out who has been slandering my name on the Internet.”

February 08, 2007

Tibetans tortured by Chinese after attempting to reach Nepal

Tibetans tortured by Chinese after failed escape attempt

A video still shows the Tibetan nun after she was shot by Chinese guards.

Samten was in a 75-strong group making their way over the 5,800-metre-high (19,000ft) Nangpa La pass in September when Chinese guards opened fire. At least two people, including a 17-year-old Buddhist nun, were killed.

The incident was filmed by a Romanian television producer on a mountaineering expedition, sparking an international outcry. Beijing had claimed the refugees were shot when border guards were attacked.

Of the survivors, 41 managed to reach India but 32 were caught and detained. The teenager said he was interrogated over a three-day period during which he was repeatedly hit with an electric cattle prod. "It went on until I fainted," Samten told reporters, adding that police repeatedly asked him to identify the dead nun.

After three days the Tibetans were taken to a prison in Shigatse, Tibet's second-largest city, Samten said. They were questioned again while chained to a wall, he said. "A guard wearing a metal glove would hit us in the stomach."

Samten was held in a labour camp there for 48 days and forced to dig ditches, build fences and work on fields, he said. Once released he paid guides to take him via Nepal to India where the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader, has been based since 1959. "He wanted to come to see his holiness [the Dalai Lama] and he also wanted an education in the Tibetan language," said Tsering Ngodup, who works with the Tibetan refugee centre in Dharamsala.

The account could not be verified but echoes the stories of others who have made similar treks. Lobsang Gyaltsen, who managed to escape when Samten was captured, said he feared for his family in Tibet. "I do not know if they are safe. We come here to learn about our language and culture. These things are hard in Tibet where we do not have freedom."

January 17, 2007

Internet Black Holes

Internet Black Holes

Reporters Without Borders features China in an interactive map of countries which censor the internet for political purposes and imprison cyber-dissidents. Other countries included on the map are Belarus, Burma, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam

[ via infosthetics ]