China Formally Arrests Guangdong Rights Lawyer


2006-10-03
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Chinese lawyer Guo Feixiong. Photo: RFA

HONG KONG—Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have formally arrested top civil rights lawyer Guo Feixiong, and a fellow activist says his former colleague and boss Gao Zhisheng has also been formally arrested.

Guo’s wife Zhang Qing confirmed the arrest, on suspicion of “running an illegal business’, but told reporters she had refused to sign the papers shown her by police.

Guo, who is also known as Yang Maodong, was taken from his home Sept. 14 by plainclothes officers and is being held at the Guangzhou No.1 Detention Center.

The momentum still exists for ordinary people to carry on defending their individual rights.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports said that Gao, who was taken away by unidentified men Aug. 15, while on a family visit to Dongying city in the eastern province of Shandong, had also been formally arrested, and his wife informed verbally by the authorities.

Fellow activists said the news had struck a body blow to China’s fledgling civil rights movement, which focuses on using legal channels to defend individual rights against violation by government officials.

Damage to movement

“I think a lot of damage has been done to the civil rights movement with the arrest of Guo and Gao,” rights lawyer Teng Biao, who was on the legal team of Shandong-based blind family planning activist Chen Guangcheng, told RFA’s Mandarin service.

“It now faces enormous difficulties. But it will continue, because the momentum still exists for ordinary people to carry on defending their individual rights, and because the right environment exists for it to do that, both in China and overseas,” said Teng.

“It won’t be deterred by the outcome of a couple of cases, nor by the fate of a couple of individuals.

But Beijing-based lawyer Chen Yongmiao was less optimistic. He told RFA reporter Shen Hua: “The Communist Party wasn’t really prepared to meet the civil rights movement when it first began to emerge, so there was a bit more room for maneuver.”

“Now there’s a lot less room,” he said.

Yi Xiaoxiong, director of East Asia Initiatives at Marietta College in Ohio, said he expected to see the crackdown on civil rights activists continue in the run-up to the 17th Party Congress, which is expected to convene some time in 2007.

Shift of gear

“The first thing is that the Chinese Communist Party believes that this time they’ve got the situation under control. After a low-key campaign lasting about four years they are now ready to move into a high-profile campaign against dissenting voices both within and outside the Party,” Yi said.

“I think that we’ll be seeing many more moves like this between now and early next year,” he said.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Shen Hua. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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