Chinese Rights Lawyer Vows To Keep Up Pressure on Party


2014-02-18
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china-wang-cheng-crop.jpg Rights lawyer Wang Cheng in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener

A lawyer who was detained after calling on the ruling Chinese Communist Party to ratify an international human rights treaty has vowed to continue his petition campaign ahead of parliamentary meetings in March.

Last Friday, police in the eastern city of Hangzhou detained prominent rights lawyer Wang Cheng after he helped to launch an online campaign to gather one million signatures calling on Beijing to ratify the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

"They used fraudulent means to get me to open the door, and then they carried out an illegal search," Wang told RFA after his release on Saturday. He had been detained on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power."

"They forced me to go with them; this was an illegal summons," he said. "I said I wouldn't cooperate."

He said China's citizens have the right to press their government over the ratification of the covenant ahead of the annual meeting of its rubber-stamp parliament next month.

"This has nothing to do with incitement to subversion," Wang said. "It is legal to talk about signing the covenant."

Raid

Wang said he believed the raid on his homewhich took place while his wife was away and his young child was being cared for by aging grandparentswas linked to a nationwide "stability maintenance" drive ahead of the National People's Congress (NPC) sessions on March 3.

Wang's wife said the family had no official communication from police when they took him away. "He left his cell phone behind at home," she said.

"I heard a lot of people came [to take him away] and there were elderly people and kids at home, but I have no way to go out looking for him, because my kid is very small," she said.

"One of the grandparents fell over, they were so frightened [during the raid]," said Wang's wife, who asked not to be named.

Wang had hoped to rally activists across China ahead of the NPC annual sessions.

Police 'chat'

Fellow Hangzhou rights activist Lu Gengsong said he was also called in "for a chat" with state security police in the city.

"They wanted to call me in to talk about Wang Cheng's 'million signatures' campaign," Lu said.

"I signed it myself," he said. "They thought it had been organized by me, so they called me in for questioning. They were fairly peaceable and they told me several times not to write any articles or to take part in China Democracy Party activities."

The opposition China Democracy Party (CDP) was banned in 1998 and several of its founder members sentenced to lengthy jail terms for subversion the same year.

Meanwhile, Hangzhou-based writer Zan Aizong said Wang had likely received more lenient treatment than Beijing anti-graft activist Xu Zhiyong, because he had confined his activism to China's tightly controlled Internet.

"I'm guessing that the authorities are more worried about collective actions [on the streets]," Zan said.

"If the campaign did garner one million signatures, and was launched as a way to put pressure on the central government, what if those people took to the streets?

"If he continues with it, they may start to threaten him ... They probably want this affair stopped ahead of the NPC, which would be a feather in the cap of the local government," Zan added.

Rights record

Beijing has repeatedly hit out at international concern over its human rights situation, saying that only the Chinese people have the right to speak out on the subject.

But the authorities repeatedly detain and harass any activists who try to do so.

Guangzhou-based rights lawyer Guo Feixiong was detained in August after he petitioned the government to ratify U.N. human rights covenants.

China signed the U.N. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1998, but neither treaty has been ratified by the NPC.

Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
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