Protecting civil rights leads to jail in Sichuan
Trade unionists are arrested for protesting against unpaid wages and activists are jailed for reporting citizens’ complaints. Police summons and warns other rights’ defenders.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Working on behalf of civil rights is banned in Sichuan. In Chengdu four activists have been arrested and ten more have been summoned for taking part in and reporting on two recent demonstrations in defence of civil rights. Two trade union members have been jailed for protesting against unpaid wages.
Huang Xiaomin, Xin Qingxian, Lu Daqun and Yan Wenhan were arrested between 28 February and 1 March on suspicion of “disturbing the social order” but Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) has been able to report it only now.
The four reported on two local protests. First, some 30 Chengdu residents chained themselves together outside the city’s Intermediate People’s Court on 23 and 24 February to protest against what they believed to be unfair rulings handed down by the court over the years. Second, a victim of forced demolition, Yuan Xinggen, injured six policemen when he resisted his impending eviction with kerosene and firecrackers on 20 February.
Local activists widely disseminated the news to domestic and international media, raising a great deal of interest in public opinion
The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection sent a team to Chengdu to investigate the case, criticising how local authorities handled the issue.
In addition to the four arrests, police summoned for interrogation more than ten activists present at the protest near the courthouse, including writer Xian Qi and workers’ rights advocate Zeng Rongkang. Both were releases after receiving a warning against taking part in similar actions.
In Tongliang County, Chongqing Municipality, Hu Weimin and Tang Aimin were formally charged on 20 March on suspicion of “assembling a crowd to disrupt social order.”
The two were originally detained on February 15 along with three other workers’ representatives after organising a sit-in outside a closed silk factory demanding payment of back pay. The three workers’ representatives were released 10 to 15 days later.
Family members said they have not been able to visit either Hu or Tang since their detention began.
“Government authorities seem extremely concerned with ‘stability’ in Sichuan,” said Songlian Wang, CHRD Research Coordinator. “Since last May, Sichuan authorities have been aggressive in detaining activists for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association. These individuals have broken no laws. [. . .] We have noted a coordinated effort in silencing dissent in Sichuan Province and its neighbouring areas,” he added.