Electric Batons Used on Activists

An independent Chinese candidate is harassed by police and made to miss a nomination deadline.
2011-10-25
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Officials count votes at local elections in Wuhu, eastern China's Anhui province, March 20, 2008.
Officials count votes at local elections in Wuhu, eastern China's Anhui province, March 20, 2008.
AFP

Beijing-based independent election candidate Wu Lihong was attacked by police wielding electric batons during her detention earlier this month, she said on Tuesday.

Speaking from her Beijing home, where she is apparently being held under tight police surveillance, Wu said the attack had happened on Sept. 29 after a hearing linked to her 15-day administrative detention.

"I was protesting to the authorities at being stripped of my right to take part in the elections," Wu said.

"First, they detained me for 15 days, then they forced me to go on a trip with them to Chongqing, during which they prevented me from having any contact with the outside world," she said.

Wu said the trip to Chongqing was timed to ensure she missed the Oct. 18 deadline for nominations in Beijing.

She said police shocked her with electric batons after she tried to check on friend and fellow activist Qi Yueying.

"He looked bedraggled and he was covered in sweat, as if he was in a lot of pain," Wu said. "I wanted to get out [of the car] to look, but just then I was shocked with an electric baton."

"After that, I don't know what happened because I lost consciousness," Wu said. "This happened on Sept. 29, and I didn't wake up again until Oct. 1."

"I was in the Chaoyang District Detention Center [when I came round.]"

Administrative detention

Chinese authorities have the power to sentence people they regard as troublemakers to administrative detention without the need for a trial. Typically, such sentences consist of a few days in a local detention center, but can extend to three years' "re-education through labor."

Wu's detention came after she sought nomination as an independent candidate for her home ward of Xiaohongmen, Chaoyang district, in forthcoming elections to district-level parliaments on Nov. 8.

After she spoke about her ordeal, her telephone line was abruptly cut off, and subsequent calls to her number went unanswered.

Fellow election hopeful Ye Qinghuan, who has campaigned for nomination in her district in recent weeks, said she had just returned from visiting Wu on Tuesday.

She said Wu wasn't the only person to be attacked with electric batons.

"There was an old man of about 70 called Li Sanlin, who was her representative, and then there was Qi Yuehong. They were all attacked [with electric batons] separately," Ye said.

"Wu Lihong fainted as a result, and she stayed unconscious for two days and two nights."

She said Wu and Li's companions had told them the pair were flung on the ground and left unconscious in the detention center by guards.

Wu's detention sparked unprecedented protests by fellow petitioners calling for her release on Oct. 13, to no avail.

"The detention center guards and the police both said that the Wu Lihong had willingly gone 'on holiday' with them," Ye said.

Repeatedly threatened

Beijing-based pro-democracy activist He Depu, who has been helping the independent candidates with their campaigns, said he was furious at the attack on Wu and her companions.

"This is a terrible thing to have happened," He said. "It makes me very angry. We cannot accept ... that independent candidate Wu Lihong was attacked with electric batons."

"We protest in the strongest terms to the Chinese government, who must apologize," he said.

Independent candidates seeking election to local lawmaking bodies across China say they have been repeatedly detained, harassed and threatened by the authorities, who say their actions are breaking the law.

Tong Zongjin, assistant professor at the Chinese University of Politics and Law, had his application turned down by the local election committee despite having gathered more than 2,000 signatures in support of his nomination.

"We are currently still discussing it, and that is still under way," Tong said on Tuesday.

He declined to comment further on his election bid. "Right now, it's not convenient for me to say any more," he said.

Beijing Foreign Studies University professor Qiao Mu's bid was also rejected, and he declined to comment when contacted on Tuesday.

Dozens of activists across China have joined the campaign to file applications to stand for the elections, in spite of official warnings that there is "no such thing" as an independent candidate.

Official media have said that anyone hoping to stand for elections this year to the district-level congresses will first have to clear "due legal procedures," the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Activists had been hoping to use a clause in the election rules which allows anyone with the endorsement of at least 10 constituents to seek nomination.

Reported by Qiao Yuan for RFA's Mandarin service, and by Fung Yat-yiu for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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