Open letter to Mr. Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China

Press release

Re: Grave concern over ongoing acts of harassment against human rights defenders in the People’s Republic of China

Dear Mr. President,

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has been informed by Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) and Human Rights in China (HRIC) about a series of hindrances on the freedom of movement and expression of several lawyers, including Messrs. Li Baiguang, Jiang Tianyong, Teng Biao[1], Li Heping[2], Li Xiongbing, Li Fangping, Fan Yafeng, Zhang Xingshui and Liu Xiaobo, who had been invited to a dinner, on June 29 2008, with Congressmen from the United States currently visiting the People’s Republic of China.

According to the information received, on June 29, 2008, Messrs. Li Baiguang and Teng Biao were brought to Huairou, 50 kilometres away from Beijing, by police officers from the Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB). Mr. Li has been guarded by four policemen and barred from returning to the capital to attend the dinner on June 29 to which he was invited. Mr. Teng was brought home and subsequently put under house arrest to prevent him from attending the dinner.

The Observatory was also informed that on the same day, two policemen from Beijing PSB Haidian Sub-division barred Mr. Jiang Tianyong from leaving his apartment block, thus making it impossible for him also to meet the US Congressmen.

Furthermore, Messrs. Li Heping, Li Xiongbing, Li Fangping, Fan Yafeng, Zhang Xingshui and Liu Xiaobo were also either threatened for or barred from taking part to the dinner.

The Observatory was also informed of the recent violations of the rights of several activists, among whom Mr. Hu Jia, a Beijing-based HIV/AIDS activist, co-founder and former Director of the Beijing Aizhixing Institute for Health Education, Mr. Yao Lifa, an activist promoting local democratic elections in Hubei Province, and Mr. Sun Lin, a reporter for the Boxun newspaper, a Chinese-language news website based abroad, who reported on alleged forced evictions at a Nanjing spice factory and on petitioners at Tiananmen Square.

We learnt with grave concern that Mr. Hu Jia, incarcerated since his arrest on December 27, 2007, is still denied access to adequate the medical care required for his liver cirrhosis[3]. Mr. Hu, currently held at Chaobai prison in Tianjin, underwent a physical examination in late May 2008, but neither he nor his family have so far been granted access to the results. This medical information is crucial as, according to Chinese law, anyone suffering serious chronic illness can be granted a release for medical treatment if his or her life is in immediate danger. As the authorities have monopolised the access to Mr. Hu’s medical records, it is impossible for the family to dispute the authorities’ decision to refuse to release him on medical grounds.

The Observatory was also informed that Mr. Yao Lifa, an activist involved in the promotion of local democratic elections in the Hubei Province, was abducted on June 26, 2008, probably by the national security police from the Qingjiang PSB after taking part in a demonstration against police brutality outside of the Qingjiang City Government building in Hubei Province.

Furthermore, Mr. Sun Lin, who was arrested on May 30, 2007, was sentenced on June 26, 2008 to four years’ imprisonment by the Nanjing Xuanwu District People’s Court for "illegal possession of firearms" and "gathering crowds to disturb social order", charges that the Observatory believes to have been fabricated to sanction Mr. Sun’s human rights activities.

Finally, the Observatory was informed that the children of the imprisoned human rights defender Mr. Yang Maodong, alias Guo Feixiong, legal adviser with the Beijing-based Shengzhi law firm, have been barred from attending school. This clearly constitutes a measure of harassment affecting the whole family of Mr. Guo. The Observatory further recalls that Mr. Guo has been detained since September 30, 2006 and that he was sentenced on November 14, 2007 to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 40,000 yuan (3,716 euros) for "illegal business activity", in connection with the publication of Shenyang Political Earthquake, which exposed Government corruption in Shenyang city, Liaoning province[4].

Mr. President, five weeks ahead of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games, the Observatory expresses its utmost concern about the ongoing violations of the rights of those who struggle to promote "a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity", in accordance with the Olympic Charter.

In addition, the Observatory wishes to recall that the National People’s Congress amended the Chinese Constitution in 2004 to include that "the State respects and safeguards human rights" and that in April 2006, China submitted a document to the United Nations in order to support its candidacy to the Human Rights Council’s first election, in which it affirmed that the amendment to the Constitution was aiming at "defining the position of human rights in the overall national development strategy". The Observatory further wishes to point out that, as a member of the Human Rights Council, China "shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights".

Accordingly, the Observatory urges the Chinese authorities to stop harassment against human rights defenders and their families, and to guarantee in all circumstances their physical and psychological integrity.

The Observatory also calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Hu Jia, Mr. Sun Lin, Mr. Guo Feixiong and all imprisoned human rights defenders in the People’s Republic of China, insofar as their detention is arbitrary as it seems to merely aim at sanctioning their human rights activities[5].

More generally, the Observatory calls upon the Chinese authorities to conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Article 1, which states that "everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels", and Article 12.2, which provides that "the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration".

We express our sincere hope that you will take these considerations and requests into account,

Yours sincerely,

Souhayr Belhassen,
FIDH President

Eric Sottas,
OMCT Secretary General

Cc. Ambassadors of the People’s Republic of China in Belgium, Switzerland, the United States and France.

[1] See Observatory Urgent Appeal CHN 002/0308/OBS 036, issued on March 11, 2008.

[2] See Observatory Urgent Appeal CHN 005/1007/OBS 121, issued on October 2, 2007.

[3] See Observatory Urgent Appeal CHN 009/1107/OBS 141.6, issued on April 21, 2008.

[4] See Urgent Appeal CHN 001/0206/OBS 018.3, issued on November 14, 2007.

[5] In particular Ms. Mao Hengfeng, Ms. Liu Jie, as well as Messrs. Chen Guangcheng, Wu Lihong, Lü Gengsong, Adruk Lopoe, Li Guohong, Li Hong, Yang Chunlin and Qi Chonghuai (See Open Letter of the Observatory of January 18, 2008 and Urgent Appeals CHN 001/0208/OBS 024.2 and CHN 003/0508/OBS 085, issued respectively on April 1 and May 16, 2008).

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