Beijing Crackdown Widens

Chinese authorities pressure two rights groups and several well-known activists ahead of the Nobel Prize ceremony.
2010-12-08
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Wan Yanhai speaks at his office in Beijing, Oct. 14, 2008.
Wan Yanhai speaks at his office in Beijing, Oct. 14, 2008.
AFP

Authorities in the Chinese capital have forced a prominent AIDS rights lawyer to resign after his boss said he would attend the award ceremony for jailed Nobel peace prize recipient Liu Xiaobo, which China has slammed as insulting to its judicial system.

Wan Yanhai, founder of the Beijing-based Aizhixing foundation, which helps people living with HIV/AIDS, is on the list of attendees at Friday's lavish ceremony, which is being boycotted by China and 18 other nations.

Lawyer Li Xiongbin, who is running Aizhixing in Wan's absence, said he had been visited by a number of state security police and tax officials on Tuesday.

"They [told me] that Aizhixing would have administrative action taken against it for suspected illegal activities," Li said.

"They said that my actions had impeded their work, and demanded that I cut off my relationship with Aizhixing and resign from all my duties," he said.

Beijing has stepped up pressure on political activists since Liu, currently serving an 11-year jail term for subversion, was named the Nobel Peace Prize recipient on Oct. 8.

Chinese officials have refused to attend the prestigious ceremony, and have put pressure on diplomats from other countries to boycott the event.

Aizhixing's Li denied any wrongdoing, however.

"As the person entrusted with the running of the organization ... I have always acted entirely legally," he said.

Li said Aizhixing would temporarily suspend normal operations and revert to being a group of individuals working from home.

Mothers targeted

Beijing authorities have also swooped down on a member of the Tiananmen Mothers group of relatives of victims who died in the 1989 military crackdown on the student-led pro-democracy movement.

Zhang Xianling said she had been forced to leave Beijing and travel to the southwestern city of Kunming under police escort.

She said she had agreed to their request on "humanitarian" grounds.

"There were three policemen camped outside my home all night with nowhere to sleep ... I took pity on them," Zhang said.

"They asked me many times to make this trip with them, but they never forced me," she said. "They told me I could choose the destination myself, so I decided to come to Kunming."

"They say that I'll be able to go back to Beijing after the award ceremony, on Dec. 12," Zhang added.

Zhang said the Tiananmen Mothers' most prominent activist, retired university professor Ding Zilin, has had her cell phone and land line cut off, and has no way to communicate with the outside world.

"I have had no news," Zhang said. "She has it much tougher than I do. This peace prize has got the government so worried."

'Wintering' in Jilin

Beijing-based rights lawyer Tang Jitian said he had been taken "on a trip" to the northeastern Chinese city of Yanji, in Jilin province.

"They didn't give a reason," said Tang, whose license to practise as a lawyer was suspended earlier this year after he defended members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.

"They don't need a reason for what they do," he said.

Meanwhile, freelance writer Liu Di, known online by her nickname "Stainless Steel Mouse," was taken away from her Beijing home by police on Monday, according to her friends.

"I heard from Liu Di's parents that she was taken away," said Sichuan-based rights activist Ran Yunfei. "It most certainly is linked to the Nobel prize ceremony."

Repeated calls to Liu Di's cell phone went unanswered on Tuesday.

An officer who answered the phone at the Hujialou police station said he didn't know about the incident.

"I don't know," he said. "I wasn't here yesterday evening. I haven't seen this person today."

The work of 'clowns'

And Beijing-based scholar Gao Yu said she was being kept under house arrest at her home.

"Today I had planned to go and visit He Fang at his house, but the police wouldn't let me get into my car, and they blocked my car near my front door," Gao said.

"I won't be allowed to go out until Dec. 11, to meet up with other people or to visit anyone."

Gao said she had hung a yellow ribbon outside her window, a symbol often used by activists to protest arbitrary detentions and the sentencing of political prisoners.

The Nobel committee has said that China and 18 other countries have declined invitations to attend "for various reasons, including Russia, Vietnam, and the Philippines."

China on Tuesday said the campaign in support of Liu Xiaobo was the work of "clowns," saying many other countries also oppose the award.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service and by Gai Lei Si and Bi Sze Mo for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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