Rights Activist Threatened

Chinese authorities shut down a human rights newsletter as the United States and China meet for talks.

qinyongmin3.jpg Qin Yongmin, in an undated photo.
Courtesy of Qin Yongmin

The founder of the China Human Rights Observer newsletter says it has been ordered to close by the Chinese authorities.

As U.S. and Chinese officials sat down in Beijing for bilateral talks on human rights, Qin Yongmina veteran pro-democracy campaigner and political dissident based in the central city of Wuhansaid he has come under increasing pressure from police not to publish.

"I haven't been sending out my human rights newsletter," said Qin, a veteran pro-democracy campaigner and political dissident based in the central city of Wuhan.

"I haven't sent it out since they called me in to talk to them on April 15," Qin said in an interview on Wednesday.

"They said they would cut off my hands and sew up my mouth, and that I wouldn't live long [if I carried on doing it]."

Qin said his computer had lately become infected by a trojan-style virus, rendering it nearly impossible to use.

"This started around the time that they called me in," he said. "Before that, two of my e-mail addresses had been hacked [and were inaccessible]."

Under surveillance

He said the hacker attack had spread to contacts in his address book, many of whom were apparently recipients of the China Rights Observer e-mail newsletter too.

"Several hundred of my contacts lost their e-mail account access as a result of getting hacked by [my] e-mail address," Qin said.

"Yesterday I realised that some of my other accounts had gone the same way," he said. "I can't get into them."

Qin, who was released from prison on Nov. 29 after serving a 12-year prison term for "endangering state security," said he has been placed under 24-hour surveillance by officials from his home district in Wuhan since his release.

Meanwhile, a U.S. delegation led by Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner began human rights talks with Chinese officials amid a nationwide crackdown in which dozens have been detained, sent to labor camp, or sentenced to jail terms for subversion.

The latest crackdown on dissent in China began following anonymous online calls for a "Jasmine" revolution, inspired by recent uprisings in the Middle East.

The State Department said last week that its discussions with China on human rights would focus on "human rights developments, including the recent negative trend of forced disappearances, extralegal detentions, and arrests and convictions."

Beijing responded to the annual State Department report on its human rights situation with its own appraisal of the human rights situation in the United States.

Veteran dissident

The 57-year-old Qin is a veteran dissident who was initially sentenced to eight years in prison for "counterrevolutionary propaganda and subversion" in the wake of the Democracy Wall movement in 1981.

A contemporary of exiled dissident Wei Jingsheng, Qin served a further two years' "re-education through labor" in 1993 after he penned a controversial document titled "Peace Charter."

By 1998, Qin was the editor of the China Human Rights Observer newsletter, and one of a number of political activists who attempted to register the China Democracy Party (CDP).

Aside from Qin, Hangzhou-based CDP founder Wang Youcai and Beijing-based Xu Wenli received 11-year and 13-year jail terms respectively for being linked to the opposition party. Both were later exiled to the United States on medical parole.

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


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