Dissident Jailed Ahead of Olympics

Authorities in the central Chinese province of Hubei send a prominent cyber-activist serving a suspended sentence back to jail. Meanwhile, in neighboring Hunan, veteran labor activist Zhang Shanguang vows to continue his human rights work following his release from a 10-year prison sentence.
2008-07-21
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DuDaobin300
Hubei-based cyber-dissident Du Daobin.
Boxun.com

HONG KONG--Authorities in the central Chinese province of Hubei have sent a prominent cyber-dissident back to jail ahead of the Beijing Olympics, as a Hunan-based labor activist vowed to continue his fight for human rights.

Du Daobin, 43, one of China’s best-known cyber-dissidents, was taken away by police a little after 12:00 noon on Monday, July 21, in Yingcheng city, Hubei province.

Du was sentenced to three years in prison, suspended for four years, on June 11, 2004, on charges of "incitement to subvert state power." His wife, Xia Chunrong, said police spent more than an hour searching the couple's home, confiscating Du’s computer and some articles.

"They gave me five or six reasons for taking him away," Xia said. "One was that he had violated the rules regarding the period of suspension of sentence. They said he had gone out without prior approval, and that he had met with visitors without prior approval."

She said the period of suspended sentence was due to expire August 3, and that Du still had just over two years of his sentence left to run. 

Arrested on Oct. 28, 2003 for posting articles on the Internet advocating democracy and respect for human rights, Du was also sentenced to loss of civic rights for two years. Xia said she had been given no information about his whereabouts.

Change in sentence

"When they came to our home they told me his suspended sentence had been changed and that he must now serve the sentence in prison," Xia said.

"There are a little more than two years left in the sentence. He was already in detention for more than seven months [before sentencing]," she said. Time spent in detention before trial is counted as time served towards the sentence in China.

Beijing-based cyber-activist Liu Xiaobo said Du had kept a low profile ever since he received the suspended sentence, staying at home and writing articles, and rarely leaving the house.

"Whenever he needed to leave his house, he would get prior approval from the authorities. He left the house a total of four times in all these years. All four times he went to visit his dad," Liu said.

"If he had violated the law, why did they wait until the period of suspension is about to expire to take him away? I think it’s related to the Olympics. Maybe there was some kind of an order from higher up to keep things peaceful for the Games," he said.

Zhao Dagong, a fellow member of the authors' group Independent Chinese PEN Center, said Du might have upset local officials.

'Never gave up'

"Du Daobin is a person of integrity," Zhao said. "He never gave up his democratic ideals.  He never compromised his principles and never admitted to wrongdoing."  

"He may have upset local officials and public security because he never gave up his fight against them," Zhao added.

As Du was taken back to jail, a labor activist sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment for "incitement to overthrow the government" and "illegally providing intelligence to hostile organizations overseas" vowed to continue his work to defend the civil rights of ordinary people.

Zhang Shanguang was released Sunday after serving a 10-year sentence handed down by a court in his native Hunan province on December 27, 1998, in the same month that similar jail sentences were being handed to founder members of the banned China Democracy Party (CDP).

Overseas rights groups reported that Zhang, who suffers from tuberculosis, was refused medical treatment and given hard labor during his stay in prison.

"I was definitely mistreated," Zhang said. "I was beaten. I was mistreated both mentally and physically."

Activist vows to continue

But he said his experience had made him more determined to continue fighting for the rights of ordinary citizens.

"I was arrested for my work as a defender of human rights in China," said Zhang, who began an organization in the spring of 1998 to protect the rights of laid-off workers, who were a growing class of dispossessed older people running into tens of millions amid painful reforms of state-owned enterprises.

A former teacher from Xupu county, Zhang had already served a jail term of seven years for organizing an unofficial trade union during the 1989 pro-democracy movement. He also petitioned for the release of detained CDP members Wang Donghai, Wang Youcai and others.

"I consider my 10 years in prison a form of persecution," Zhang said. "I will definitely continue to exercise my legal rights and engage in my work as a rights defender in accordance with the law."

Original reporting in Mandarin by Yan Xiu and Xin Yu. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Translated and edited by Mandarin service director Jennifer Chou.