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China Human Rights Briefing August 31-September 5, 2012







Arbitrary Detention


Henan Activist Zhou Decai Given Five-Year Sentence for Rights Defense Advocacy


Rights activist Zhou Decai (周德才) of Henan Province was issued a five-year prison sentence on September 3 for “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order” in apparent retaliation for his advocacy. The Gushi County People’s Court, which had heard Zhou’s case on June 13, handed down its verdict as a large number of police surrounded the courthouse. Zhou’s wife, who officers blocked from the sentencing hearing, has said that the judge, in a supposed basis for the verdict, cited a clash between farmers and police that Zhou had allegedly planned over a government land seizure. Countering this claim, an individual familiar with the case has said that the local government had orchestrated the aggression, and that Zhou himself had been beaten and injured in the melee. Zhou, an independent candidate in his local People’s Congress election, was taken into custody in February just before heading to a labor rights seminar in Beijing, and formally arrested in March.[i]


Harsh Punishment After Tiananmen Square Protest: Four Petitioners Imprisoned, Two Dozen Sent to RTL 


Four Hunan men have each been sentenced to between two and three years in prison for petitioning, in particular for behavior in Tiananmen Square that had already sent 21 of their fellow petitioners to Re-education through Labor (RTL). From Changsha City, the 25 petitioners had gone to Beijing to seek justice several times last year, mostly over illegal home demolitions. Frustrated when they did not make headway, they eventually kowtowed under the Chinese national flag at Tiananmen Square in September, and were taken into custody by police and sent back to Hunan. In October, most of them received RTL punishments ranging from one to two years for “disrupting social order.” On August 20, four others who had remained criminally detained were sentenced to prison by a Changsha court for “gathering a crowd to disrupt the order of a public place.”[ii]


Dongshigu Village Again Under Surveillance, Nearby Residents Still Face Intimidation


Dongshigu Village in Shandong Province is again under surveillance, with measures recently put in place near the main entrance of the village. Since sometime in August, a house has reportedly served as a base to videotape, observe, and follow vehicles and pedestrians that come into Dongshigu. After Chen Guangcheng’s (陈光诚) departure from China in May, an oppressive lockdown on the village was lifted, and the local government began to talk to villagers about poverty alleviation efforts, but merely as a pretense to gauge their interest in Chen’s case and warn them not to discuss the activist with outsiders. Government propaganda and intimidation have in part kept basic facts about Chen from surfacing: Many who live near Dongshigu still do not believe that Chen and his family are in the United States, and instead think that he was brought back to the local area after fleeing to Beijing and is being held by police in Linyi City.[iii]


Shanxi Woman Imprisoned for Seeking Justice Over Officer’s Disabling Assault on Son


A Shanxi woman was imprisoned for over five years after a police officer’s beating left her son disabled, and authorities have refused to justly address her serious and longstanding complaints, according to a recent report. About 15 years ago, Li Huaxian’s (李花仙) then 12-year-old son was beaten by a classmate’s parent—a public security officer—and suffered traumatic head injuries that brought on epileptic seizures. A mediated settlement in 1998 offered no compensation to Li, who went on to petition to public security authorities in Beijing. For trying to seek justice, she was taken into custody in July 2004 on a charge of “creating a disturbance” and given a three-year Re-education through Labor (RTL) punishment, which was then changed to a 4½-year prison sentence. Li was eventually detained for five years and three months. Under great financial hardship, Li has unsuccessfully sought compensation for medical costs for her son and the punishments issued to her, as well as employment for another one of her sons.[iv]


Forced Eviction & Demolition/Land Expropriation 


Elderly Man Loses Hands in Knife Attack Over Land Conflict


An elderly man in Guizhou Province recently had his hands severed off in an unprovoked attack tied to a contentious land takeover, with other older villagers also seriously injured in the assault. On August 19, unidentified thugs likely employed by a land developer attacked Liu Darui (刘达锐), a Xingyi City resident in his 60s, and others who had gone to retrieve crops from land that had been bulldozed two days earlier. The elderly residents were blocked by land development personnel, however, and cleaver-wielding individuals set upon the villagers from behind as they were headed home. Liu’s hands were cut as he tried to shield fellow villagers from knife blows, and another man lost a middle finger to a wound while others were injured from being beaten. The police have taken no action since the villagers reported the attack, and the developer continued to bulldoze the land that the government had seized without proper procedures or offering adequate compensation. The families of the two most badly injured men are facing hospital fees so enormous that they may have to stop medical treatment.[v]


Law & Policy Watch


RTL Pilot “Reform”: System Re-Named in Four Cities, Still No Substantial Changes


As calls grow across China to abolish the Re-education through Labor (RTL) system, RTL “reform” is being piloted in four cities, but any change appears to be cosmetic, leaving the system under firm control of police and not addressing RTL’s fundamental defects. As discussed in the Beijing News (here and here), the cities of Nanjing, Lanzhou, Zhengzhou and Jinan are testing grounds for changes to RTL, chief among them renaming it “Illegal Behavior Education and Correction.” Last year, the Supreme People’s Court issued a proposal outlining reform concepts that ostensibly emphasize “education” and detainees “returning to society.” Lacking tangible judicial or legislative changes, the pilot work is being organized by public security bureaus, which manage the controversial RTL system, and involves other government bodies and agencies. However ineffectual they may turn out to be, the trial “reforms” could well be in response to public outcries against RTL, as human rights lawyers and activists—and, increasingly, petitioners sent to RTL—have long pushed for the system’s dismantling.[vi]



[i] “Rights Defender Zhou Decai, of Gushi County, Henan, Sentenced to Five Years in Prison” (河南固始县维权人士周德才被判刑五年), September 3, 2012, WQW; “Gushi County, Henan Activist Zhou Decai on Hunger Strike in Detention” (河南固始维权人士周德才在看守所中绝食), May 17, 2012, CHRD; “Henan Rights Defender Zhou Decai’s Case Sent to Court”(河南维权人士周德才案已经移交法院), May 10, 2012, CHRD; “Henan Rights Defense Activist Zhou Decai Has Visit With Lawyers” (河南维权人士周德才会见律师), March 29, 2012, CHRD; “Henan Rights Defender Zhou Decai Formally Arrested” (河南维权人士周德才被批准逮捕), March 10, 2012, CHRD; “Henan Rights Defender Zhou Decai Criminally Detained for ‘Gathering Crowd to Disrupt Social Order’” (河南维权人士周德才被以涉嫌众扰乱社会秩序罪刑拘), March 1, 2012, CHRD; “Rights Activist From Gushi County, Henan, Zhou Decai, Taken Away by Police, Has Home Searched”(河南固始县维权人士周德才被警方抓走并抄家), February 28, 2012, CHRD


[ii] “Several Changsha Petitioners Sentenced After Kneeling in Front of National Flag in Tiananmen Square”

 (长沙多位访民跪拜天安门国旗后获刑), August 30, 2012, WQW; “Representatives of Changsha Petitioners Express Outrage at RTL Committee, Skirmish in Court” (长沙访民状告劳教委遭对方代理人当庭攻击), June 14, 2012, WQW


[iii] “Chen Guangcheng Home Village of Dongshigu Again Under Surveillance, Villagers Surveyed and Placed Under Controls” (陈光诚家乡东师古又现看守,村民被调查监控), September 5, 2012, WQW


[iv] “Shanxi Petitioner Li Huaxian Imprisoned Nearly 6 Years, Unable to Get Justice for Son Over Past Decade” (山西访民李花仙为儿伸冤10年未果反遭冤狱近6), September 3, 2012, WQW


[v] “With Forced Government Land Grab, Developer Thugs Cut Off Hands of Elderly Man” (政府强征土地 发商雇凶砍断六旬老人双手), September 2, 2012, WQW


[vi] “Four Cities Pilot Sites for RTL Reform” (四市试点劳教制度改革), August 29, 2012,Beijing News; “RTL Reform’s Need ‘First Step’ to Good Legislation” (劳教制度改革要迈好立法第一步), August 29, 2012, Beijing News


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