Wednesday, February 25, 2009

China rights 'worsened', says US

A pro-Tibet protest, Beijing, 15/08
Signs of dissent were rare during the Beijing Olympics

BBC: The US state department has criticised China in an annual report on human rights around the world.

China's human rights record worsened in some areas in 2008, including the repression of dissidents and of minorities in Tibet, the report said.

It came just a week after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on a trip to China that co-operation should take precedence over tensions.

Chinese state media said the US report was "groundless and irresponsible".

"The report turned a blind eye to the efforts and historic achievements China has made in human rights that have been widely recognised by the international community," Xinhua news agency said.

Among the other countries criticised were Russia and North Korea.

Russia had "continued a negative trajectory in its overall domestic human rights record", the report said.

In North Korea, it said, the human rights record "remained abysmal", giving the example of authorities killing babies at birth in prisons.

Other countries mentioned in an introduction to the report included:

* Egypt, where the state department said there had been a decline in the government's respect for freedoms of speech, press, association and religion
* Iran, which the report said had intensified its systematic campaign of intimidation against reformers, academics, journalists and dissidents
* Zimbabwe, where the report said the systematic abuse of human rights had "increased dramatically" during 2008.

During her recent trip to China, human rights activists had criticised Mrs Clinton for not speaking out over the issue.

Pushback against demands for greater personal and political freedom continued in many countries across the globe
US state department report

However, the secretary of state said she had held candid discussions on human rights issues with her Chinese counterpart.

The state department's report said that in 2008 Chinese authorities had "committed extrajudicial killings and torture, coerced confessions of prisoners, and used forced labour".

Cultural and religious repression of ethnic minorities got worse in largely Muslim Xinjiang and in Buddhist Tibet, it said, with repression peaking around the time of protests in Tibet and last summer's Beijing Olympics.

The report also cited Chinese curbs on freedom of speech and the press, including the internet.

US performance

Overall, "pushback against demands for greater personal and political freedom continued in many countries across the globe" in 2008, the report said.

It said the most serious abuses were "where unaccountable rulers wielded unchecked power or there was government failure or collapse".

Karen Stewart, a state department spokeswoman, said the trends showed "the continuing need for vigorous United States diplomacy to speak out and act against human rights abuses at the same time as our country carefully reviews its own performance".

"We do not consider views about our performance voiced by others in the international community - whether by other governments or non-governmental actors - to be interference in our internal affairs," she said.

"Nor should other governments regard expressions about their performance as such."

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Monday, February 23, 2009

Interview with Chen Yonglin

The insider . . . Chen Yonglin, a former Chinese diplomat who defected in 2005, says that in Australia there are no secrets from China

Uneasy China turns it eye on a friend

Sydney Morning Herald - Sat 14 Feb,2009: Erik Jensen speaks to former Chinese diplomat-turned-defector Chen Yonglin and finds the extent of China's paranoia about its countrymen in Australia is alarming.

Chen Yonglin talks through the flyscreen door of a house in south-west Sydney. A former first secretary at the Chinese consulate in Camperdown, he is shy about the meeting and takes a few moments before opening the door.

Over the next few weeks, through several hours of interviews, the defector explains his experiences of China in Australia - of watching and being watched, diplomacy and dissidence. He paints, in tiny brushstrokes, the picture of a country intoxicated by its power but wracked by thoughts of weakness. "The Chinese totalitarian system, they know the power is very weak - inside it's very weak," he says. "But they need to keep the image intact, perfect, so that they can continue to keep the integrity."

Six years ago, Richard Jones - then a member of the upper house of the NSW Parliament - spoke at a Falun Gong dinner in Parramatta. He talked about the endurance of its adherents, likened them to Buddhists, affirmed their right to practise. The next morning, on intelligence gathered at the function, the Chinese consul telephoned Jones to express concern at his attendance.

Some time later - between Jones attending a Taiwanese New Year celebration and meeting the Dalai Lama - the then-independent MP was placed on a secret blacklist at the consulate. He was identified as a Buddhist and a supporter of the Falun Gong. He will never be granted a visa to visit China.

"It's such an overkill, such an acute paranoia, to think one person could create waves through 1.3 billion people," Jones says of the ban. "It's a level not only of paranoia but of organisation and of wish to control. It reminds me of East Germany, where every fifth person was a spy."

Chen was the consul for political affairs at the Sydney consulate when Jones was blacklisted. It is on his evidence that Jones knows of it. The Australia that Chen describes is a convoluted net of Chinese paranoia. Favours are done, face is saved. A public relations war is being waged in the diaspora. "The penetration into Australia has been massive, from the top to bottom," Chen says. "In Australia, there is no secret from China."

Jones is not the only politician monitored by the Chinese, though the consulate denies they operated a blacklist of politicians who offended China's position. In the past three years, NSW Greens MP Ian Cohen has spoken at about 10 Falun Gong rallies. He has received three personal letters from the consulate, five general letters about the Falun Gong and other groups, and at least two videos detailing China's views on Tibet and other contentious issues.

"I've been reprimanded and had people from the Chinese embassy [talk] about their displeasure with me," Cohen says. "They use diplomacy but they're strong about it. They use their language very directly."

Six months ago, Cohen was invited to a private dinner with consular staff. He made it a lunch and chose Parliament House as the location. "They were making a genuine attempt to convert me to their point of view," he said. "The can't threaten me. They can only suggest of me."

Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, a former NSW Democrat, spoke at about six Falun Gong rallies before he was identified and received a letter from the consulate. "It was somewhat patronising. It basically said they [Falun Gong] were a cult," Chesterfield-Evans said. "I didn't take it as a threat - my impression was it was step one, 'You are naive'. If I had persisted, step two and three may have been forthcoming."

The letter was part of procedure, says Chen. Everyone at a rally, official or layperson, is identified by consular staff or informants. Prominent participants are contacted. Others are tracked by the consulate, using a network of Chinese bankers and real estate agents who are approached to supply addresses and other details.

"We will write a letter to [a politician] to warn him or her, to tell them that the Falun Gong is a cult and their attendance damages Australian-Chinese relations and there will be no benefit for themselves," Chen says. "It is a warning: if they want to visit China, their visa will not be issued. We give a letter implying that."

The Chinese Consul General, Hu Shan, refused to be interviewed by the Herald and did not respond to an extensive list of questions faxed to him. A vice-consul in government affairs, Peng Douyi, replied but would not answer questions about surveillance and diplomacy. "Falun Gong is a destructive cult that practises human mind-control and behaviour manipulation. It has claimed plenty of innocent lives and damaged many families," he said. "In overseas countries, Falun Gong has become an anti-China political organisation defaming China."

In the three years since Chen defected, having collected the names of hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners, the former diplomat has worked part-time - first as a festival light salesman, now as a rental agent.

He is still cautious about contact. It took a network of informants only four days to find him when he hid in Gosford after defecting. He says he was followed again last year, during the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation talks in Sydney, though he has no proof other than to say he saw men videotaping him.

When he agrees to an interview, he asks to meet in Hyde Park but eventually nominates a house in south-west Sydney as an alternative. The house is a base for the small group of dissidents operating in Sydney - about 20 people, 100 more if one counts those with a vague association. Dandelions poke through the hurricane fence. There is a flat-pack wardrobe on the porch with rows of shoes inside. Many people use this house. All believe they are monitored by the Chinese.

There are two tiers to Chinese surveillance in Australia, Chen says: a small group of professionals and a larger ring of people offering information when contacted by the consulate. In his time at the consulate, he says, staff did everything from infiltrate pro-Tibet groups to rummaging through the letterboxes of suspected Falun Gong practitioners.

"We collect through many ways - through open publication and personal collection, and through the community. And also through investigation. In Australia, a lot of information can be accessed through the public."

Chen says local councillors are another source of information and "very often" tip off the consulate to rallies in their local government area. He is reticent to give the names of the informants the consulate uses. The consulate uses the information to make sure someone is available to videotape those attending.

Councils are lobbied to block applications for Falun Gong activity. China sees sister-city relationships as a point on which to wedge councils, Chen says. "We will first make representations to the council and demand not to allow such activities. We present to the city council [that] there are not allowed to be such rallies and we threaten it will influence relations with China. We have used sister-city relations and sister-state relations and we often use these to pressure [the] NSW Government." he says.

"The real nature of Chinese diplomacy is how to maintain the ruling of a communist government. It's not about national interest, it's about people's interest."

Midway through 2001, the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority met representatives from the consulate and struck a deal: Falun Gong would not be allowed to criticise China in the authority's parks and would be prevented from holding banners that criticised China. It was one of many deals Chen says he made over four years. The authority refused, when contacted, to deny such a meeting took place.

A spokeswoman, Angela Fiumara, said in a statement: "Falun Gong protesters are among several groups, including buskers and film crews, which the authority has in the past requested relocate to other parts of its precincts based on public access issues. Our current policy does not specifically allow nor restrict demonstrations or the use of hand-held signs and banners by protesters."

The authority places Falun Gong rallies into a category of special events shared by pyrotechnic displays and helicopter landings. Such events require special considerations of public safety and pleasantness and organisers can be forced to hire security chosen by the authority.

Each rally must produce detailed modelling including assessments of alcohol and crowd management. All applications to use the authority's parks were refused in the two years after the meeting.

In the past three years, foreshore land has been used as an assembly point and this year the authority allowed an art display in Darling Harbour. As a condition of its approval, the Falun Gong's marquee could not be open to the view of passers-by.

"After the change in China," Chen says that in the end, "everything will be exposed."

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Obama Sells U.S. to China Inc.

AIM Column | By Cliff Kincaid | February 22, 2009

...with Hillary Clinton having signaled to the Chinese dictators that we will beg for their money and ignore unfair trade practices and even human rights violations, it will be left up to President Obama to seal the deal.

The truth is starting to seep out. Because of the need for more money to finance the latest bailout―the Obama economic stimulus plan―America is going further in debt to the Chinese Communists. Our country is officially being sold to the highest bidder. And we have striking confirmation of this fact from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The good news is that a correspondent for the mainstream media―Wyatt Andrews of CBS News―has figured this out and has managed to get on the air with his terrifying findings. Andrews’ report on the Friday CBS Evening News with Katie Couric was direct and to the point. Clinton is in China to beg for a handout.

“The truth is the Administration needs China’s help. America’s stimulus is very expensive and the U.S. wants China to help finance it,” Andrews reported. This is what America has become―a country that sends its Secretary of State abroad to beg for money from foreigners. In this case, it’s a communist dictatorship that forces women to have abortions, tortures Christians, and threatens the freedom and democratic government of Taiwan.

So the cost of the “stimulus” is more sacrifice of American independence and sovereignty, as well as our own values, ideals, and commitment to human freedom. It is a sad day both for America and China.

Clinton was shown saying, “We are relying on the Chinese government to continue to buy our debt.” The almighty dollar takes precedence over everything else, even as it falls in value and the dangers of hyperinflation and national bankruptcy loom. The tragedy is compounded by the fact that pandering to the Chinese will not solve anything. This policy, set in motion by big banks and corporations and pursued by Democratic and Republican Administrations, is what got us into this predicament in the first place.

Clinton’s comments, which concern the overall economic policy of the new administration, are far more significant than the Obama mortgage plan. Clinton is getting to the heart of the issue―how the mortgage plan and the stimulus are being financed.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs expressed irritation last week that CNBC commentator Rick Santelli went into a rant over the prospect of forcing American taxpayers to underwrite the bad mortgages of deadbeats and others who are unable to pay their mortgages. But Santelli only touched on one small part of the problem.

Where’s the outrage over the pro-China policy that spans several administrations, and which has benefited his corporate bosses at General Electric, of permitting the communist dictatorship in Beijing to have the upper hand in global trade relations? All that Santelli has to do to understand this problem is attend a GE annual meeting and listen to the complaints of the GE workers losing their jobs to China. But don’t expect to see anything about that on CNBC, NBC, or MSNBC.

If you want more information on this travesty, please go to the website and learn how GE is going “green,” which has the effect of shipping American jobs to China. If Santelli did a rant about that, you can bet he wouldn’t be on the air again.

We were already in terrible shape under the Bush Administration because of a mysterious financial collapse apparently caused by illegal manipulation of our markets, but now the communists have us completely over a barrel because the Obama Administration, with the acquiescence of Congress, recklessly decided to spend even more money that we don’t have. Under the circumstances, this is criminal negligence.

Mrs. Clinton is officially stating what everyone should know is the truth. She deserves credit for being brutally honest. America has become a subsidiary of China Inc. In order for the U.S. to stay afloat, we have to depend on Beijing to finance a bailout. But the other major problem, of course, is that the stimulus is not a bailout in any real sense of the word. It depends on more government debt and borrowing at a huge cost of being more indebted to the Chinese. So the bailout is really digging our nation’s grave deeper.

To make matters even worse, as the Andrews report made clear, the cost will include the jobs that the Obama Administration says will be created by the stimulus. He interviewed an American manufacturer about the loss of American jobs caused by China’s trade practices, who said that the “cheating” in global trade has cost millions of American manufacturing jobs.

In the end, the only “jobs” that will be created or “saved,” as Obama likes to say, will likely be those benefiting from spending the federal money that the federal government doesn’t have. Most of them work for government at all levels.

Productive private sector manufacturing jobs will not be created―and cannot be―because despite their campaign promises, neither Obama nor Hillary will do anything about those unfair Chinese trade practices, such as the currency manipulation, that make Chinese goods artificially cheap and American goods more expensive.

The Andrews report, which caught me completely by surprise on a newscast that tends to portray the new Administration in completely flattering tones, was absolutely blistering in contrasting what Obama and Clinton had said during the campaign and what they are doing now.

“Both the man who became the President and his future Secretary of State told the voters they would make the [trade] cheating go away,” Andrews reported. He showed candidate Obama saying that he would do everything in his power to stop China from manipulating its currency and Hillary saying that she would “aggressively crack down on China’s unfair trade practices.” These claims were shown to be empty and abandoned campaign promises. We should have assumed that would be the case.

Andrews asked Secretary of State Clinton about this and “she explained that times have changed.” Clinton said, “That was at a different time when we weren’t facing the kind of difficult situations we face today.” Translation: we need their money and we are in no position to demand or criticize anything. These Clinton comments preceded Andrews’ remarks about the cost of the stimulus and the perceived need to get China to help finance it.

As we had noted in a previous column about the Administration’s so-called economic program, Clinton was going to China for the purpose of getting Chinese money to finance the stimulus. Now we have it all on the record. Her trip was designed to reinforce Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s private conversations on this topic with Chinese officials.

The land of the free and the home of the brave has now become the land of the quivering milquetoast, in awe of an emerging Communist giant that our big banks and corporations, as well as our government, have built into an economic superpower.

President Obama apparently sees nothing wrong with this. Indeed, during the campaign he praised China’s staging of the Olympic Games, saying their infrastructure was impressive and was something the U.S. might consider emulating.

Now, with Hillary Clinton having signaled to the Chinese dictators that we will beg for their money and ignore unfair trade practices and even human rights violations, it will be left up to President Obama to seal the deal. When he gives his State of the Union-like speech to Congress and the American people on Tuesday night, he will in reality be auditioning for a front-row seat on the board of directors of China Inc. Don’t expect to hear anything critical of the butchers in Beijing.

Cliff Kincaid is the Editor of the AIM Report and can be reached at cliff.kincaid@aim.orgOLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Friday, February 20, 2009

Clinton Urged to Call for Release of Falun Gong Prisoners

Secretary Clinton Urged to Call for Release of Falun Gong Prisoners of Conscience During China Visit

NEW YORK – (Falun Dafa Information Centre) The Falun Dafa Information Center is calling upon U.S. Secretary of State Clinton to press Chinese officials to end the 10-year campaign against Falun Gong and release all Falun Gong prisoners of conscience during her visit to China this weekend.

“We urge Secretary Clinton to restate, in unequivocal terms, the U.S. position that the government of China must immediately end the persecution, arbitrary detention, and torture of ordinary Chinese citizens who practice Falun Gong,” says Falun Dafa Information Center spokesperson Gail Rachlin. “Falun Gong adherents remain the largest population of prisoners of conscience in China today, all are at risk of severe torture and even death in custody. As a world leader in promoting human rights, it is imperative that the U.S. make clear to the Chinese regime that such treatment of its own citizens is unacceptable.”

Since 1999, when the Chinese regime launched its campaign to “eradicate” Falun Gong, the Department of State’s annual human rights report has regularly detailed large-scale arbitrary detention, sexual abuse, torture, and death of Falun Gong practitioners at the hands of Chinese security agencies (see DOS report excerpts). The U.S. Congress has passed multiple resolutions condemning the persecution of Falun Gong. More recently, the Congressional Executive Commission on China (CECC) issued the following finding and recommendation in its 2008 annual report:

“The central government intensified its nine-year campaign of persecution against Falun Gong practitioners in the months leading up to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games... call for the release of Chinese citizens confined, detained, or imprisoned in retaliation for pursuing their right to freedom of religion (including the right to hold and exercise spiritual beliefs)." (CECC report excerpts)

Three recent cases of adherents being released early following international campaigns on their behalf have reaffirmed the impact diplomatic and public pressure can have in ending the suffering of innocent individuals imprisoned for their faith.

In July, Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Bu Dongwei was released several months early from a Beijing labor camp; In October, Qin Shizhen was released from a special "re-education" class in Gansu after U.S. elected representatives wrote to the Chinese authorities; earlier this year, Wenjian Liang, sister of a British citizen, returned home two months early from a labor camp after pressure from British officials and Amnesty International urgent actions.

"When someone of Secretary Clinton's stature voices U.S. concern over the fate of Falun Gong practitioners, it creates an important layer of protection for them," says Rachlin. "But the opposite is also true - when mass rights abuses are met with silence and the perpetrators find they can act with impunity and without fear of international condemnation, the human costs are enormous. This is why we urge Secretary Clinton to use this important opportunity to call for Falun Gong practitioners' release."

Last week, the Falun Dafa Information Center released its Annual Report (online / download PDF), documenting a wide variety of rights violations against Falun Gong adherents that occurred in 2008.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Thursday, February 19, 2009

China plans media empire to boost image

By Calum MacLeod, USA TODAY

BEIJING — China, known for its tight control of people and the news, wants to soften its image around the world and is ready to spend big bucks on a media empire to do that.

Plans include creating what amounts to a Chinese CNN, a 24-hour English-language news network possibly based in Singapore or elsewhere outside China, within 12 months, say media advisers to the government.

People's Daily, the voice of China's ruling Communist Party, is preparing to launch an English-language newspaper in the next few months, says Zhang Nanyi, an editor at the new paper. The state broadcaster is hiring staff for channels in Arabic and Russian, the TV network's party chief, Zhang Haige, told People's Daily.

China's government "feels it has major problems communicating with the West," says Yu Guoming, the journalism school dean at Renmin University in Beijing, who has advised Chinese officials on the media push and says plans are moving ahead. "They need new channels of communication, with more balance and diverse views than in existing Chinese media. They are aware that the old methods of propaganda won't work."

The cost of this media drive awaits final approval but is estimated at $4.7 billion to $6.6 billion, according to reports by the South China Morning Post and Reuters. Several government agencies contacted by USA TODAY declined to comment.

China's leaders "are still deciding when to start the new channel, but they will definitely do it soon," says Steven Dong, director of the Global Journalism Institute at Beijing's Tsinghua University. The channel will build on the growing number of bureaus of the state-run Xinhua News Agency, which has been lobbying for five years to expand into broadcasting, says Dong, who advises the government on media strategy.

The government "has thought about this for a long time, and became more confident after the Olympics" in August, he says. The successful staging of the Games "persuaded the government to provide more money" to support these expansion plans.

Questions remain about whether China can ease its rigid control to allow the free flow of information about Asian news around the world. For example, last week's major fire at an unfinished 44-story luxury hotel adjoining China Central Television's new headquarters got scant mention in China's newspapers — or on CCTV, even though the broadcaster's fireworks display sparked the inferno.

"Who made this stupid decision not to show coverage?" asks journalism professor Li Xiguang of Beijing's Tsinghua University. "In the time of the Internet, this really damages CCTV. The backfire is bigger than the fire."

Li welcomes the move toward better news coverage but notes that China has two major hurdles — a "great shortage of good journalists" and the urge to control.

China also plans an aggressive marketing campaign of its TV programs next month in Cannes, France, says Rowan Simons, director of a media consultant group in Beijing. Among the programs is The Story of Bruce Lee, China's top-rated drama in 2008.

Simons doubts that the new TV channel or newspaper "will be different from current media," because they are "the mouthpiece of the party."

For Shanghai lawyer Wu Dong, CCTV equals "brainwashing." Wu was among 22 Chinese academics and lawyers who signed an open letter last month calling on viewers to boycott the network, which had cut away from live coverage of President Obama's inaugural speech after he mentioned communism.

Wu says he is angry at CCTV's lack of coverage of last year's tainted milk scandal. "If the government wants to influence the international audience through these new media, we cannot use the old methods," Wu says.

"The government must list truth as the No. 1 principle of news," he says. "We must follow the international, universal rules, like CNN or the BBC."

Find this article at:

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Back to the ’08 Olympics, &c.

By Jay Nordlinger

NRO: ....Well, advocates of granting the Olympic Games to China all said that having the Games would force the PRC to liberalize. It would be good for human rights, people said. Even Chinese authorities themselves said that the Games would cause them to liberalize!

That was the great selling point.

And what happened? Not only did the Games not have a liberalizing effect; they had the opposite — moving the PRC to crack down all the more. I documented this extensively in a five-part series on this site last August. You can find it in my archive, here.

And just the other day, I saw this headline, from the Falun Dafa Information Center: “Fueled by Olympics, Falun Gong Persecution Escalated Sharply in 2008.” You’re darn right it did (and the relevant article is here).

Now, there’s nothing wrong with guessing, or arguing, and being wrong. It may have happened even to me one time. And it was possible that the Games would have a liberalizing effect (although I always thought that was a foolish guess, for reasons I detail in the above-mentioned series). In any case, the granting of the Games to Beijing set the cause of human rights back.

And it would be nice if some of the advocates of those Olympics — and there were millions of them — would simply say, “Oops: Turned out to be wrong.” Why should they say this? Because I think there should be Mao-style self-criticisms? No. Because I like to say “I told you so”? No. It just seems to me that, before we glide on, we should review, take stock, so as to prevent similar errors or misjudgments in the future.

Isn’t that elementary? (And elementary, as you know, is one of the specialties of this column.)...More
OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fueled by Olympics, Falun Gong Persecution Escalated Sharply in 2008: Report

Falun Dafa Information Center Issues 2008 Annual Report as UN Rights Body Finalizes China Review

FDAC: New York – The Communist Party’s campaign against Falun Gong escalated sharply in 2008 as China’s rulers took advantage of the Olympic games to catalyze and justify the large-scale arrest, imprisonment, and monitoring of Chinese citizens known to adhere to the spiritual practice, the Falun Dafa Information Center said in an annual report published on Tuesday. (Executive Summary / Full Report)

As the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) continues its review of China’s rights record this week, the Center called on the international community to publicly condemn the 2008 crackdown and take measures to prevent such abuses in the future.

“Rather than being a vehicle for improved human rights, the 2008 Olympics was a catalyst for worse persecution – not only before the games, but also after their conclusion, as an increasing number of innocent people are being sentenced to labor camps and prisons for up to 13 years,” said Falun Dafa Information Center spokesman Epring Zhang. “The Chinese regime essentially used the heightened security surrounding the games to further its own decade-long agenda of ’eradicating Falun Gong.’”

The report documents a variety of rights violations against Falun Gong adherents, both inside and outside China, that occurred in 2008. It draws on a wide range of sources including first-hand accounts from practitioners, their families, and human rights lawyers, Chinese government websites, foreign media reports, research by Amnesty International, and a thorough study by the Congressional Executive Commission on China.

The report’s key findings were:

  • There was a clear and sharp escalation in the campaign against Falun Gong adherents throughout 2008.
  • The escalation began prior to the Olympic games with door-to-door searches by security agents, increased surveillance, detentions, and deaths is custody. In the immediate aftermath of the games, there was an increase in sentencing, particularly to long prison terms, of individuals who had been held in pre-trial detention for months.
  • The increased persecution was nationwide and top-down: While large numbers of adherents were detained, harassed, and tortured in Beijing and other cities hosting Olympics venues, reports of abuse and official directives to target Falun Gong—particularly from the central 610 Office to its subsidiaries—emerged across the country. One of the deadliest provinces was Heilongjiang, which hosted no Olympic events.
  • In total, the Center received reports of over 8,000 practitioners having been detained in 2008 and 104 dying as a result of persecution—in many cases within weeks, days, or even hours of being taken into custody.
  • Falun Gong adherents continued to make up a significant percentage of detainees in “re-education through labor” camps and in prisons, making them the country’s largest population of prisoners of conscience.
  • Once detained, it remained commonplace for adherents to be subjected to severe torture—including sexual abuse and shocks with electric batons—to force them to disavow their faith.
  • Throughout the year, a small group of approximately 20 lawyers continued to defend Falun Gong adherents, despite Party directives banning such action. Many of them faced harassment, monitoring, disbarment, and even detention or torture at the hands of the authorities.
  • Falun Gong remained one of the most taboo topics of coverage for both Chinese and foreign news organizations reporting from China in 2008, with its websites blocked for the full duration of the Olympics. In at least one well-documented case, an adherent was sentenced to prison simply for downloading and circulating Falun Gong-related information from the Internet.

”For years, Falun Gong practitioners have been the largest population of prisoners of conscience in China, and that remains true today,” says Zhang. “It is imperative that the UNHRC and other international bodies place Falun Gong squarely on the table when addressing China’s human rights abuses and not permit CCP officials to side-step a critical issue that affects so many in China.”

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

UN misses opportunity to push China on Human Rights

AI: Posted: 10 February 2009

Many of the countries involved in the UN Human Rights Council's recent examination of China failed to address some of the most serious human rights issues, Amnesty International said today.

Roseann Rife, Asia-Pacific Deputy Director at Amnesty International, said:

'We didn't hear enough about the on-going repression of the Tibetans, the Uighurs, as well as the persecution of various religious groups, including Christians and members of the Falun Gong.'

But Amnesty described the UN's Universal Period Review (UPR as an important new mechanism for the protection of human rights in China and welcomed China's engagement with the Review.

Amnesty also welcomed the recommendations presented by some country delegations, such as the need for China to reconsider its use of the death penalty, develop its judicial system, end its use of punitive administrative detention, abolish the household registration system and create conditions for the country to be able to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The organisation urged China to accept the recommendations on these vital human rights issues in preparation for the Human Rights Council's report on Wednesday 11 February.

Roseann Rife said:

"While it is appropriate to point out the progress that China has made in some areas of respect for human rights, for the UN's new review mechanism to be fully effective reviewing countries must also be willing to address the most serious human rights issues.

'China's engagement with the UN mechanism is positive. The real test on the effectiveness of the new review process will be whether China implements changes that have a real impact on the protection of human rights for people across the country.'

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Repression Continues Six Months After Beijing Olympics

By Gisela Sommer
Epoch Times Staff Feb 9, 2009

Chinese security personnel patrol the Olympics ground on Aug. 1, 2008, in preparation for the Beijing Olympics. Free speech activists and other citizens detained in connection with the Beijing Olympics are still being held six months after the games. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Image)

Six months after the Beijing Olympics began on Aug. 8, 2008, Reporters Without Borders urges the Chinese authorities to release all the free speech activists and other citizens still being held in connection with the games.

In a press release dated Feb. 6 Reporters Without Borders USA says that at least 17 Chinese journalists, bloggers and free speech activists have been arrested since the games ended.

“For hundreds of Chinese, the Olympic legacy is measured in years in prison, administrative sanctions or police surveillance,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This is degrading for the Olympic movement, but the authorities still have a chance to change the situation by freeing those who were arrested for expressing their views in connection with the games.”

The press freedom organization added: “It is also deplorable that improved access to web sites, one of the few benefits derived from the Olympic Games, has been rolled back. It is clear that the Olympic human rights legacy promised by the government and the International Olympic Committee is extremely meager.”

Reporters Without Borders says French President Nicolas Sarkozy attended the opening ceremony of the games and submitted a list of political prisoners whose release he requested on the European Union’s behalf. None of them has been freed.

Sarkozy's list was headed by Hu Jia, who has been held for more than a year and is in poor health. The authorities continue to refer to him as a “criminal,” although he was awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize.

Huang Qi, who was arrested in June 2008 for writing about the victims of the previous month’s earthquake in Sichuan, is still awaiting trial and his family still has not been allowed to see him.

Writer and lawyer Yang Maodong continues to be mistreated in the southern province of Guangdong. Fellow lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who has been sick with acute diarrhea for months, was denied an early release on medical grounds by the authorities in Shandong last month.

Bu Dongwei, a member of the Falun Gong movement, has not been released from the re-education-through-work camp where he has been held since June 2006.

Yang Chunlin, one of the initiators of the “We want human rights not Olympic Games” campaign, is still detained in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, where he has to work 14 hours a day in a prison factory.

Tibetan monk Tenzin Delek continues to be held in Sichuan province, serving a life sentence on a charge of “inciting separatism.”

The failure of the European Union’s attempts to get China to release prisoners of conscience should induce the EU to adopt a new strategy. Reporters Without Borders calls for repeated joint requests for their release, requests that are not just made in the course of the discreet meetings that are taking place as part of the EU-China dialogue on human rights.

Foreign Press Reassured

Reporters Without Borders mentions several incidents involving foreign journalists since the Olympic Games. The most serious was undoubtedly an attack on a crew from the Belgian TV station VRT while they were doing a report on the AIDS epidemic in Henan province. The journalists were beaten and robbed by thugs who had clearly been put up to it by the local authorities.

Severe punishments have been imposed on some of the dissidents who spoke to foreign reporters about the Olympic Games. Wang Guilan was sentenced in August by a court in Hubei province to 15 months of reeducation through work.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) recorded 178 cases of foreign journalists being obstructed in the course of their work in 2008, 63 of them during the Olympic Games period.

“Foreign journalists are still relatively free to work thanks to the renewal of the more relaxed regulations, but they still encounter obstacles when they try to cover dissident activities, the situation of companies affected by the economical crisis and the situation in Tibet,” Reporters Without Borders says.

Very few journalists obtain permission to visit Tibet. The French daily Le Monde’s correspondent requested accreditation for Tibet, but was refused. The few foreign journalists who do get into Tibet are closely watched and around 10 Tibetans have received prison sentences since the end of the games for sending information abroad.

Reporters Without Borders says it takes note of a decision, announced at the end of January, to transfer oversight of foreign news agencies to the State Council’s Information Office. The existing policy, supervised by the government news agency Xinhua, did not allow the Chinese media unrestricted access to foreign news agency reports. Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to allow all international news agencies, not just those selling financial news, to offer content to the Chinese media.

Chinese Media Push the Limits

Reporters Without Borders says the Propaganda Department shows no sign of relaxing its control of the Chinese media, but several of them have nonetheless been pushing the limits of censorship and self-censorship. The Beijing News daily, for example, ran a report about the way some of the people organizing petitions have been forcibly confined in psychiatric institutions. Similarly, the media has given extensive coverage to the contaminated milk powder story after having been prevented from doing so until the end of August because of the Olympic Games.

The magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu was threatened by the Propaganda Department in November but the authorities did not go ahead with purging the staff after an outcry from the journalists.

In January the government announced that it was going to spend an additional 17 billion yuan (2 billion euros) on state media such as CCTV and the news agency Xinhua. Propaganda Department chief Liu Yunshan said: “It has become urgent for China to ensure that our communication capacity matches our international prestige.”

Reporters Without Borders says the government’s grip over the media has prompted reactions from intellectuals. A score of university professors and lawyers issued a call on Jan. 12 to “Boycott CCTV, reject the brainwashing.”

Just as Many Journalists and Bloggers Still in Prison

Reporters Without Borders says the Olympic Games did not in any way help to obtain the release of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents. In all, 79 are currently detained in China, many of them in appalling conditions.

The journalist Qi Chonghuai, for example, was beaten by fellow inmates in a prison in the eastern city of Tengzhou in November. He is also being forced to do difficult work in a mine run by the prison authorities.

Reporters Without Borders says that journalists continue to be arrested. Guan Jian, a reporter with Wangluo Bao (Network News), a Beijing-based weekly, was arrested on Dec. 1 while looking into allegations of corruption in the real estate sector in Taiyuan, in the central province of Shanxi.

A CCTV reporter, Li Min, was placed in detention in the same province four days later.
She was accused of corruption by the provincial authorities, including prosecutor He Shusheng, after she had accused the prosecutor of “abuse of authority” during a TV report on the air. In both cases, the threat came from political or judicial provincial officials who refused to permit any attempt by the national press to take an interest in the murkier side of their activities.

Blogger Guo Quan was arrested in mid-November in the eastern province of Jiangsu by police who said his articles were too radical. Prior to his arrest, he had called for the creation of a netizens party to combat online censorship. He had also announced his intention to sue the U.S. company Google for ensuring that a search for his name on its Chinese-language search engine yielded no results.

As Hu Jia’s wife Zeng Jinyan, herself a blogger, said in a message thanking the European parliament for awarding Hu the Sakharov Prize: “There are now a great many exceptional people and people of goodwill in Chinese society who are going to great lengths to find ways to make the real situation in China known, and to express deeply-felt views, and the Internet is providing them with a very interesting platform. But unfortunately there is sometimes a very high price to be paid for this.”

Cracking Down on Dissidents

Wang Rongqing, one of the leaders of the banned China Democracy Party and the editor of a dissident magazine, was sentenced to six years in prison for “subverting state authority” by a court in the eastern city of Hangzhou on January 8. He was arrested a few weeks before the start of the Olympic Games. One of his relatives told Reporters Without Borders that his state of health was very worrying.

The repression has above all focused on the initiators of Charter 08, a call for democratic reforms that has been signed by 8,100 Chinese. One of its authors, leading free speech activist Liu Xiaobo, was arrested shortly after its release on December 9 and is still being held in a Beijing police residence. In all, more than a hundred signatories throughout China have been detained, questioned or threatened by the political police.

Investigating the human rights situation during the Olympic Games period is not very safe either. In January, Beijing-based activist Wang Debang was interrogated for six hours by the Public Security Bureau, which accused him of helping to write a human rights report. His home was searched and his computer was confiscated.

Wang Lianxi, a worker who spent 18 years in prison for his role in the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989, was confined against his will in a psychiatric hospital before the Olympic Games for fear he would stage demonstrations in Beijing.

Internet Censorship—Back to the Bad Old Ways

The authorities unblocked access to dozens of news and human rights web sites when the foreign journalists who had come to Beijing to cover the Olympic Games began to complain. But once the games were over, the government bodies in charge of controlling the Internet gradually eliminated this meager “Olympic legacy.” The Reporters Without Borders web site was one of the first to be blocked again. The Amnesty International site became inaccessible again in January.

Access to the Chinese-language news sites of Asiaweek (, Mingpao (, Voice of America (VOA) and the Hong Kong ( and Taiwanese ( versions of the video-sharing web site YouTube were blocked in December.

The leading international news media have also seen their web sites blocked again. The Chinese-language sites of the BBC World Service, Radio France Internationale and the New York Times are all now inaccessible.

Foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao explained that “some web sites” had content that “violates Chinese laws,” adding that “I hope the web sites will practice self-restraint in terms of what they publish.”

A few weeks later, on January 5, the government introduced new regulations aimed at combating “vulgar content” and “protecting privacy”—goals which are nonetheless being used as a screen for imposing additional restrictions on free expression online. More than 90 web sites have already been blocked, some of which have nothing to do with porn or invasion of privacy, Reporters Without Borders says.

The police closed the Chinese web site Zhongguo Nongchanpin Shichang Zhoukan in September because of its articles on the contaminated milk power. The web site was blocked by the authorities in November. Finally, the political blog portal was closed in January.

But some Internet users have fought back. Wang Zhaojun, for example, filed a complaint before the supreme court in January against, a leading portal, for closing down his blog after he posted an article about the changes in Chinese society to come in 2009.

Despite the relentless censorship, China’s 210 million Internet users have been the protagonists or witnesses of a great deal of online activity in which, for example, Sanlu’s contaminated milk powder and a strike by taxi drivers have widely commented upon.

Would-be Protesters Still Threatened

Reporters Without Borders says police continue to prevent peaceful protests.

According to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, Liu Xueli, a campaigner against forced evictions who had asked for permission to demonstrate in a designated place in August, has been sentenced to 21 months of reeducation through work. And Fuzhou-based petitioner Ji Sizun is still being held for wanting to demonstrate in Beijing during the games.

Ye Guozhu was meanwhile released in October after accepting compensation for the demolition of his home during the renovations carried out in Beijing in the run-up to the Olympic Games. He was to have been freed at the end of July, but the authorities decided to keep him in detention while the games were going on.

And the International Olympic Committee’s take?

“Exceptional games,” IOC president Jacques Rogge said at a news conference just before the closing ceremony. “The biggest intangible legacy of the games, and also a very important one, is that through the games, China has been scrutinized by the world, China has opened up to the world.”

New China Rules for Hong Kong Journalists Roll Back Freedoms

Meanwhile, according to a separate Reuters report by James Pomfret, China on Feb. 6 announced new rules for Hong Kong and Macao journalists that were criticized as a “rolling back of media freedoms” in a year filled with sensitive anniversaries for China's Communist party leaders.

The report says that in new regulations issued by Beijing, reporters from Hong Kong and Macao can travel to China for interviews only with prior consent, and would have to inform authorities before each trip. Tam Chi-keung, Chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association told Reuters, "This is returning to the old ways ... this can't fulfill the actual needs of Hong Kong and Macao journalists ... Nor can it fulfill the actual needs of Hong Kong and Macao people's right to know about news in China."

Xinhua state agency explained that Beijing was only "extending temporary regulations for the 2008 Olympics that had allowed greater freedom for journalists from outside the mainland."

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Lawyer Gao Zhisheng Forcibly Taken by Police

Human Rights Lawyer Gao Zhisheng Forcibly Taken by Police, Current Whereabouts Unknown; His Latest Open Letter Reveals His Past Severe Torture
Posted Feb 08 2009

ChinaAid Press Release
Media Contact: Katherine Cason (267) 210-8278 or
Washington, D.C. Contact: Jenny McCloy (202) 213-0506 or
Website: and Fax: (432) 686-8355

Photo: Gao Zhisheng and his son

February 9, 2009

BEIJING- In his latest open letter, world-renowned Chinese Christian human rights lawyer Mr. Gao Zhisheng, revealed the shocking details of the severe torture he suffered. The letter addressed to the international community was written on November 28, 2007 at his besieged home in Beijing and was authorized to be released to the international community on February 9, 2009 by Mr. Gao and his family.

In his letter, Mr. Gao recorded that, after sending an open letter to members of the U.S. Congress, he was kidnapped on September 21, 2007 and for more than 50 days he was tortured in the most inhumane ways. He was forced to lie naked on the floor for 13 days and nights while he was tortured with electric shock batons and toothpicks were used to pierce his sexual organs. He wrote, “The electric shock baton was put all over me. And my full body, my heart, lungs and muscles began jumping under my skin uncontrollably. I was writhing on the ground in pain, trying to crawl away. Wang (one of the interrogators) then shocked me in my genitals.”

The interrogators used the cigarettes to fill his nose and eyes with smoke for extended periods of time. He was told, “You wrote that letter to American Congressmen. Look at you, you traitor. What could you be given by your American lord? The American Congress counts for nothing. This is China. It is the Communist Party’s territory. To capture your life is as easy as stepping on an ant.”

ChinaAid learned that attorney Gao Zhisheng, who was nominated for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize, was forcibly taken from his hometown in Shaanxi province early in the morning on February 4 by a dozen police officers. Currently, his whereabouts are unknown.

Gao Zhisheng is a former Chinese Communist Party member, Chinese army veteran and prominent Christian attorney. Since 2005, Gao has been repeatedly kidnapped, arrested, imprisoned and tortured by Chinese authorities for his work defending underground Christians (including Pastor Cai Zhouhua) and persecuted Falun Gong and human rights activists. He, his wife and two children have been monitored and tormented by authorities for more than two years, and much of their contact with the outside world has been cut off.

“We are deeply concerned about Mr. Gao and his family. The international community including the UN Human Rights Council should hold the Chinese government accountable for its brutal persecution against Mr. Gao’s family,” said Bob Fu, President of ChinaAid, who knows Gao and his family very well. “It’s time to take these records seriously as China’s human rights’ record will be examined by the United Nations, today, in Geneva.”

Read the full letter by Gao Zhisheng regarding his torture experience in 2007.

ChinaAid grants permission to reproduce photos and/or information for non-fundraising purposes, with the provision that is credited. Please with questions or requests for further information.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

UN Reviews Human Rights Conditions in China

Filed under: Headline, Human Rights | Tags>> United Nations | February 4th, 2009

( On February 9, 2009, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights will review the human rights conditions in China based on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The UPR is a new and unique process that involves a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN member states once every four years. Those that trample on human rights receive the most attention from the media and the public. The upcoming review is an opportunity to expose the persecution of Falun Gong by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and help the people and governments around the world find out the facts about the persecution.The CCP launched a brutal and large-scale persecution against millions of Falun Gong practitioners ten years ago. The level of cruelty has been unprecedented, and the international community must not allow this persecution to continue. The Falun Gong Human Rights Working Group has submitted a strongly worded report to the United Nations on the persecution of Falun Gong by the Chinese government. The reported has been published on the official website of UPR here.

(Search Keyword The Falun Gong Human Rights Working Group)

The Falun Gong Human Rights Working Group states that the CCP’s severe persecution of Falun Gong practitioners violates every article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and all international human rights treaties and laws that are based on the UDHR. The submission focused on the following aspects of the persecution:

  1. Deprivation of Dignity and Personal Freedom and All Basic Rights

  2. Deprivation of the Right to Life, Liberty, and Personal Security

  3. Slavery

  4. Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

  5. Deprivation of Protection of Law, Access to Legal Help, and a Fair Trial

  6. Arbitrary Detention

  7. Destruction of Families

  8. Deprivation of Freedom of Movement, Right to Nationality, and Right to Asylum

  9. Deprivation of Fundamental Civil and Political Rights

  10. Deprivation of Basic Social and Cultural Rights, and the Right to Personal Development

Information from Falun Gong practitioners and their sympathizers from China indicate that millions have been subjected to arbitrary detention; hundreds of thousands have been sent to labor camps; and thousands have been sent to psychiatric hospitals and injected with harmful chemicals. Almost all who have been arrested were tortured, and most women who have been arrested have suffered violence, including sexual abuse. Thousands have been tortured to death, while large numbers of living Falun Gong practitioners have systematically had their vital organs harvested, leading to their deaths. Information from other sources, including inquiries and interventions by Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), also point to a severe and extensive persecution. Given the information blackout by the PRC government, the real situation is believed to be much worse. The long duration of this persecution and the number of people affected makes the PRC government’s persecution of Falun Gong the most severe human rights violation in the world.

The PRC government’s severe and extensive violations against Falun Gong practitioners are precisely what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) calls “barbarous acts that have outraged the conscience of mankind.” Such acts go against the letter and spirit of the UN Charter and violate every article of the UDHR and all international human rights treaties and laws that are based on the UDHR. The PRC’s membership in the UNHRC taints the image of the UNHRC.

While this submission focuses on China’s human rights violations against Falun Gong practitioners, it is important to note that Tibetans, Uyghurs, Mongolians, Christians, dissidents, and other groups have suffered similar human rights violations.

The Chinese and English versions of the Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review of China are available here and here.

Chinese version is available here.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Dissent loses ground on the boulevard

Vancouver Sun: Pete McMartin - Last week, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein ruled the Falun Gong must remove a shack and a row of billboards the group has maintained in front of the Chinese consulate since 2001. The letter of the law was observed. I'm not sure the spirit of democracy was.

Anyone who has ever driven down Granville Street knows the Falun Gong. They're the folks always in front of the Chinese consulate just south of 16th Avenue. They are -- let's be honest -- a weird sight, a row of utterly still people meditating on the narrow grass boulevard, mute, eyes closed, often sitting in a Buddha-like lotus position. Their passivity recalls the early Christian flair for martyrdom. Their complete silence is discomfiting. It speaks louder than any bullhorn.

And what resolve! Seven years is a long time to keep vigil of anything, and that they have kept it for 24-hours a day, rain or shine, says something of the wrongs they say have been committed against them: imprisonment, torture, the harvesting of their organs for transplants. The litany is well known.

But about that shack: It was erected to offer a bit of cover for those keeping vigil in inclement weather or at night. It sits on a grass median a yard wide. The grass median is city property.

Enter the law.

For three successive city councils, the vigil has been an irritant. According to a city hall source, the Chinese consulate has quietly made known its displeasure with the vigil to the city. Public complaints have been almost non-existent, however, (In her decision, Judge Stromberg notes that in the seven years of the vigil there have been three documented complaints to the city, and one of those came from the consul-general representing all the consulates in Vancouver.)

But in 2006, then Mayor Sam Sullivan -- remember him? fella in a wheelchair? bought crack for an addict and gave money to a sex-trade worker? -- decided it was time to enforce the law, as picayune as it was. The Falun Gong's shack had to go, Sullivan decreed. He was going to make Granville Street safe for pedestrians again, despite the fact there was room enough on the sidewalk to drive a Buick down it.

It went to court. The court weighed in last week.

"Even if they are held to constitute a form of expression, the method of expression is incompatible with the fundamental purpose of the city street," Judge Stromberg-Stein ruled. "I agree with the city that it is not necessary that structures obstruct either pedestrian or vehicular traffic, as any obstruction is illegal."

The judge granted the city right to remove the shack and billboards. The Falun Gong's lawyer, Clive Ansley, said the group will file an appeal. Why? Because the removal of the shack and billboards, Ansley said, will utterly change the nature of the vigil, and threaten its continuation since many of the vigil-keepers are elderly and need the provided shelter.

Now, I would not dare to fault the judge's decision. She was just doing her job and interpreting the law as she saw it.

But what I do find fault with?

Here, in the city of Bob Hunter and Greenpeace, of Harry Rankin, of the country's most vibrant social activism, there has been a disturbing silence. The most disturbing silence of all can be found at city hall -- you know, from the new council that considers itself so liberal. But this is a council like the other councils. They believe the democratic impulse comes with a past-due date.

It doesn't. As I wrote in 2006, the same still applies in 2009:

"A democratic government committed to encouraging democratic impulses should sometimes let its moral compass dictate its actions, not the frigging letter of the law."

Let the Falun Gong be. That shack is built on something greater than a yard-wide strip of city grass.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Gao Zhisheng released?

Rights groups: China rights lawyer released

For the whole scoop about Gao's past history, click here.

BEIJING (AP) — An outspoken Chinese human rights lawyer who disappeared for two weeks and was allegedly being held by security forces at an unknown location has returned home, an international rights group said Tuesday.

Gao Zhisheng, who has described being tortured in the past by Chinese security officials, is currently safe after Western diplomats pressed China on his case, according to Human Rights Watch.

The New-York based group did not give any other details and said it was not immediately clear when Gao was let go.

Gao, a bold critic of China's civil rights lapses, disappeared on Jan. 19 and was "subsequently detained by Chinese security forces," according to a joint letter issued earlier Tuesday by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Human Rights in China that expressed fears for his safety and called for his release.

The groups were "particularly concerned" about his disappearance because it appeared arbitrary and did not follow any apparent action on Gao's part, said Nicholas Bequelin, Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch. "It seemed to be an escalation in treatment by security forces," he said.

China has long been criticized for its violations of freedom of speech and religion and brutal repression of critics, and the U.N. Human Rights Council is set to review its rights record starting next week.

Gao, an attorney, has tackled cases involving property-rights violations, the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement and religious persecution from 2002-2006.

He was arrested in August 2006, convicted at a one-day trial and placed under house arrest. He was accused of subversion on the basis of nine articles posted on foreign Web sites, state media reported at the time.

In September 2007, he was again detained for several weeks after sending an open letter to the U.S. Congress denouncing China's human rights situation and detailing his and his family's harsh treatment by security forces.

He graphically described torture sessions he allegedly endured that involved severe beatings, electric shock to his genitals, and cigarettes held to his eyes.

Last November, the U.N. Committee Against Torture issued a report on China saying that it remained "deeply concerned about the continued allegations, corroborated by numerous Chinese legal sources, of routine and widespread use of torture and ill-treatment of suspects in police custody."

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008