Friday, May 04, 2007

Group: China Stamps Out Dissent

Human Rights Defenders' concerns added to the mix are sure to make a difference, sooner than later. Look here for Amnesty's report released a fews day ago.

BEIJING (AP) via the Guardian Friday May 4, 2007 9:16 AM - China is cracking down on dissent in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics by persecuting and harassing human rights activists, a rights group said Friday.

The Chinese Human Rights Defenders group said the situation deteriorated last year, with activists increasingly arrested and intimidated.

``The government appears determined to stamp out any sign of discontent and dissent so as to present a happy facade of social stability and social harmony to the world as the 2008 Summer Olympics draws closer,'' the group said in a report.

It was the second such report this week after Amnesty International said Monday that Beijing had failed to live up to promises to improve human rights for the Olympics despite death penalty reforms and increased freedoms for foreign reporters.

China, which rejected the Amnesty International report, has said it is meeting its commitments and that the human rights situation in the country is improving.

It was a holiday in China this week and no officials were available to comment on the latest report.

It said that despite a growing human rights movement in China, the communist government was suppressing moves to defend land rights in rural areas, intimidating and persecuting lawyers, and restricting the movements of activists in many cities.

``Persecution of rights activists has in fact worsened in that the methods are more sophisticated, hence harder to hold authorities accountable,'' Chinese Human Rights Defenders said.

``Punishment typically through deprivation of freedom, livelihood, housing or family, has continued,'' it said.

The report cited the case of Huang Weizhong, a farmer in southern Fujian province. He was sentenced to three years in prison last year for ``assembling a crowd to disturb social order'' after appealing to the authorities for the protection of land rights.

It also pointed to the case of Chen Guangcheng, a blind activist who has recorded complaints of officials compelling villagers to undergo late-term abortions and sterilizations.

In January, the Linyi Intermediate Court in central Shandong province rejected an appeal against a sentence of four years and three months handed down last year after Chen was convicted of instigating an attack on government offices in his home village because he was upset with workers sent to carry out poverty-relief programs.

Chen also was accused of organizing a group of people to disrupt traffic.

Chen's supporters say he is innocent and that officials fabricated the charges after he documented complaints that officials trying to enforce China's birth-control regulations forced villagers to have late-term abortions and sterilizations.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders is a network of Chinese human rights activists and groups who monitor the government's adherence to its international and constitutional obligations.
OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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