Jailed human rights lawyer allowed visit by brother
Reporters Without Borders is pleased to receive news of the well-known human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), who has been the victim of a series of mysterious abductions and disappearances orchestrated by the Chinese authorities since February 2009.
His brother, Gao Zhiyi, told Agence France-Presse yesterday that he was able to visit him a few days ago in Shaya prison in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. He did not however provide any additional details.
After resurfacing in March 2010, Gao Zhisheng went missing again the following month and nothing was known of his whereabouts until the official New China (新华) news agency reported on 16 December 2011 that he was being held in a prison without saying which one. His brother finally reported on 1 January that he had just received an official letter saying it was Shaya prison.
Reporters Without Borders has been very concerned about Gao and raised his case in an open letter to Vice-President Xi Jinping on 15 February during Xi’s visit to the United States.
Enforced disappearance and mistreatment of detainees has become commonplace in China. Under amendments to the criminal procedure law approved two weeks ago, the authorities are supposed to notify relatives within 24 hours when someone is arrested.
But the amendments also allow them to hold detainees incommunicado in a secret location when relatives cannot be found or when notifying them might hamper an investigation involving a terrorist threat or a threat to national security.
04/01/2012 - Arrests, trials and sentences offer no respite for Chinese dissidents
Reporters Without Borders reiterates its condemnation of the government’s persecution of human rights defenders and dissidents, which was stepped up during the end-of-year holiday period with a wave of arbitrary arrests, unfair trials and long jail sentences targeting cyber-dissidents in particular.
Gao Zhiyi, the brother of the well-known human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), reported on 1 January that he had just received an official letter confirming that Gao has been jailed. The New China government news agency had announced on 16 December that Gao was in detention but it was not known where. The letter said he is being held in Shaya prison in Xinjiang, a remote northwestern region that is notorious as China’s “gulag.”
Gao’s wife had urged the international community to intercede in support of her husband in an interview on 20 December for the US-based NGO Human Rights in China.
Two other human rights defenders, the lawyerNi Yulan (倪玉兰) and her husband Dong Jiqin (董继勤), are currently being tried in Beijing on charges of disturbing public order, destroying public and private property, and offensive treatment of other persons, with aggravating circumstances. Ni is also accused of fraud.
After an initial hearing on 29 December, the court adjourned to issue its verdict on a date that has not yet been scheduled. The couple has been detained since April pending trial. Ni has serious health problems due to injuries received during an earlier spell in prison in 2002.
The start of their trial came just days after two cyber-dissidents received long jail sentences in western China on subversion charges. A Sichuan court gave Chen Wei (陈卫) a nine-year sentence on 23 December. Then, on 26 December, a Guizhou court sentenced Chen Youcai (陈友才), who uses the pen-name of Chen Xi (陈西), to 11 years in prison.
The pace of these trials suggests that there will be no let-up in 2012.
The following three cyber-dissidents were released in the past two months on completing their jail sentences, but 68 others continue to be detained in connection with their online reporting activities, which makes China the world’s biggest prison for cyber-dissidents :
Wang Lihong (王荔蕻) was released on 20 December on completing the nine-month sentence she received on a charge of disturbing public order.
Zheng Yichun (郑贻春), a dissident writer, was released on 19 December on completing a seven-year sentence on a subversion charge. He will continue to be deprived of his political rights for the next three years. His relatives had been forbidden to talk to foreign news media.
Chen Jianping (程建萍), an activist, was released on 9 November on completing a sentence of one-year in a labour camp for retweeting a satirical comment about tension between China and Japan. She will remain under police surveillance.
Another cyber-dissident gets long jail term for “subversive” articles
Reporters Without Borders is shocked by the severity of the 10-year jail sentence that a court in Guiyang, the capital of the southwestern province of Guizhou, passed today on Chen Youcai (陈友才), a dissident writer who uses the pen-name of Chen Xi (陈西).
Convicted of inciting subversion in a total of 36 articles posted on various websites, he was also sentenced to three years without civil rights after his release. The long jail term was imposed just three days after a court in neighbouring Sichuan province sentenced Chen Wei (陈卫), another cyber-dissident, to nine years in prison on a similar charge.
“The Chinese authorities have again used the holiday period to impose a series of particularly severe sentences on pro-democracy activists,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The ‘subversion’ charge is just a pretext for silencing dissidents such as Chen Xi and Chen Wei and encouraging self-censorship. We call on the authorities to free them and all other political prisoners.”
The Hong Kong-based NGO Chinese Human Rights Defenders said the defence lawyer was repeatedly interrupted during today’s summary and unfair trial. Arrested on 29 November, Chen Xi said he would not appeal because it seemed pointless. A veteran pro-democracy campaigner, he has already spent a total of 13 years in prison in connection with his activism. This clearly did not count in his favour in the court’s eyes.