Professor Targeted by Phone Calls

Chinese authorities offer no help to stop the harassment of a rights activist.
2011-05-11
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Activists form a red ribbon, marking World AIDS Day in central China's Henan province, Dec. 1, 2010.
AFP

As U.S. officials step up calls to Beijing to improve its human rights record, an outspoken university professor in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou has said she is being targeted by the authorities in a continual campaign of harassment.

Lecturer and rights activist Ai Xiaoming, of Guangzhou's prestigious Zhongshan University, said the front door to her apartment had been stuck shut with super-strong glue and she had been receiving hundreds of "malicious calls" to her mobile phone.

"I didn't know who it was, so I answered it," said Ai, who recently released a documentary about AIDS in China's poverty-stricken rural areas. "No one said anything. After that I got 50, 100 calls like that."

"These are obviously malicious phone calls," she said as top U.S. and Chinese officials concluded a third round of high-level strategic talks in Washington on Tuesday.

The United States pressed Beijing on its human rights record, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offering some of the harshest criticism yet of China as it mounts one of its biggest clampdowns on dissent in years.
 
"They're worried, and they are trying to stop history, which is a fool's errand," Clinton said of Chinese officials in an interview with The Atlantic magazine that was conducted April 7.

Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, in Washington for the talks, however told the United States to “learn first-hand” about China’s “enormous progress” in human rights and “get to know the real China.”
 
Can't open door

Amid a wave of pro-democracy protests sweeping the Arab world, Beijing in recent months has rounded up dozens of lawyers, writers, artists, and other perceived critics.

Ai said she had received no help from police or her telecoms service provider amid the harassment.

The glue was squeezed into her front door lock on Saturday, making it impossible to open the door.

"There is no real reason for anyone to hold a grudge against me," said Ai, whose documentary featured interviews with outspoken AIDS doctor and activist Wan Yanhai, now living in exile in the United States.

It also included footage of China's deserted AIDS villages, where much of the adult population acquired the HIV virus through illegal blood-selling and tainted transfusions.

Retired Nanjing University professor Sun Wenguang said he had been on the receiving end of similar phone harassment, sometimes for months on end.

"It's very clear that this is being done by the Communist Party," Sun said. "Most people wouldn't have to the capacity to carry this out."

"They did this to me for four to five months back in 2006," Sun said. "They do it if they think you are being disobedient, not heeding their warnings."

"They want to bring you into line and cause you a bit of grief."

Phone harassment illegal

Beijing-based rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang said telephone harassment is illegal in China.

"The people who are doing this are clearly breaking the law," Pu said. "But if it's the police who are doing it, then it's hard to say what's going on."

Pu said an academic at Beijing China Youth Political Institute had also been targeted in similar ways.

"Those calls said that they would send people from the Party and government to glue up the lock on one of the professor's front doors."

Rights activists in China have been detained in their dozens in recent weeks, with many sentenced to jail terms for subversion, sent to labor camp, or held in unknown locations.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch called on U.S. officials to keep up the pressure on Beijing over human rights.

Blood-buying schemes

Official estimates put the number of people living with HIV in China at about 700,000, with around 85,000 people having full-blown AIDS, according to UNAIDS.

The HIV virus that causes AIDS gained a foothold in China largely as a result of unsanitary blood plasma-buying schemes and tainted transfusions in hospitals.

While health authorities say sex has overtaken drug use as the main cause of HIV infections in China, veteran activist and retired gynecologist Gao Yaojie has repeatedly said that infection through transfusion is a continuing scandal in poverty-stricken inland provinces.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.