Chinese Government Silences Activists Ahead of Shanghai World Expo

(ChineseHuman Rights Defenders, April 28, 2010) Asthe 2010 Shanghai World Expo opens on May 1, conspicuously absent fromthefestivities will be the residents of Shanghai who have lost theirhomes,businesses, and freedom to exercise their rights in the government’sdrive tobring its ambitious plans for the Expo to fruition. Ahead of thearrival of an estimated70 million visitors over the next six months, officials in Shanghaihave detained,placed under surveillance, or threatened activists, dissidents, andpetitionersacross the city and in surrounding areas. Police in other cities have warned activists not to travel toShanghai.“Thegovernment is working to create an atmosphereof fear in the activist community in Shanghai and elsewhere,” said oneactivistwho has been closely monitoring developments ahead of the Expo. “Manyactivists,dissidents, and petitioners are under some form of restriction ofmovement orsurveillance.  Some are refraining fromspeaking out for themselves or getting in touch with others for fear ofseriousretribution.” Policehave sought out high-profile local activistsand made it clear that any efforts to expose abuses by the governmentwill bemet with swift and serious retaliation. For example, Feng Zhenghu (冯正虎),a veteran Shanghai activist who for years has sought to draw attentionto thefailures of the Shanghai judicial system, had planned to set up a“ShanghaiExpo of Unjust Court Cases” during the Expo. Around midnight on April19, Shanghaipolice raided his home, confiscated his computer equipment and took himawayfor a four-hour interrogation. Police threatened that if he spoke outduringthe Expo they would “make him disappear like Gao Zhisheng (高智晟).”Otheractivists have been placed in detention toensure that they will be out of sight for the duration of the Expo.CHRD hasdocumented six cases of Shanghai petitioners-turned-activists who havebeensent to Re-education through Labor (RTL) since January for reasonsrelated tothe World Expo, and a total of 10 dating back to the latter half of2009.[1]For example, Tong Guojing (童国菁)was sent to 18 months of RTL on February 13. Tong, like most of thosesent toRTL, started petitioning after his home was forcibly demolished, andbecame anactivist as he learned about the plight of fellow petitioners. Anumber of activists in the provinces surroundingShanghai, such as Wen Kejian (温克坚)and Zou Wei (邹巍)in Zhejiang Province, and Zhang Lin (张林)in Anhui Province, have been warned by local police against travelingtoShanghai during the Expo.  CHRD hasreceived reports that activists in cities as far away as Guangzhou,Xi’an, andBeijing have been asked to “tea” or questioned by police in recentdays, andwarned not to travel to Shanghai or speak out during the World Expo. Forcedevictions carried out in preparation for theExpo have been a source of widespread anger among Shanghai citizens foryears. Accordingto official statistics, 18,000 households were relocated to clear thegroundsfor the Expo, but activists argue that, taking into account otherdevelopmentrelated to the Expo, many more residents were affected.[2]Shanghai officials estimated in 2009 that complaintsover forced eviction and demolition accounted for “70 or 80 percent” ofpetitions originating from the city (for interviews with Shanghairesidentsaffected by Expo-related forced evictions, please see CHRD’s report, ThrownOut: Human Rights Abuses in China’s Breakneck Real Estate Development).[3]Toprevent victims offorced evictions from drawing attention to their grievances during theExpo,police are detaining, harassing, and threatening petitioners. Manyare being held under “soft detention” at home. For example, Huang Yuqin(黄玉芹),a resident of Minhang District, Shanghai, whose home was demolished onMarch 2,has been under “soft detention” since April 19. Security guards havefollowedher whenever she leaves her home, and have prevented her from leavingon atleast one occasion. Huang also received a notice warning her not togather withothers or petition on or near the Expo grounds for duration of theExpo. Other Shanghaipetitioners have received an identical notice in recent weeks,threatening“strict punishment” for any who disregard the instructions.[4]Finally,some veteran Shanghai petitioners have beendetained as a warning to others ahead of the event. For example, ShenPeilan (沈佩兰),who has been petitioning since the forced demolition of her home in2003, wasadministratively detained for 15 days in the Minhang District DetentionCenterin late March and early April. Shen, who was beaten during herdetention, hassince been released, and has gone into hiding in Shanghai. CHRDurges the Chinese government to immediatelyrelease all activists, dissidents and petitioners detained because oftheShanghai Expo. The government must stop the practice of placing“troublemaking”individuals under surveillance and restricting their movements on“sensitive”occasions. These individuals should not be punished for exercisingtheirfreedom of expression or their right to defend human rights. MediaContacts:Renee Xia, International Director (English and Mandarin), +852 81916937 or +1301 547 9286Jiang Yingying, Researcher (English and Mandarin), +852 8170 0237 

[1] "Ten-odd Shanghai Rights Activists Sent toRTLBecause of World Expo" (因世博会上海维权人士10余人被劳教), April 13, 2010, http://www.crd-net.org/Article/Class53/201004/20100413144927_20771.html

[2] Yang Qiong, Record of the Responses of YangQiong andGao Yan to Journalists at a State Council Information Office PressConference (杨雄高燕在国务院新闻办新闻发布会答记者问实录),http://www.expo2010.cn/expo/chinese/rdzt/guowuyuan/userobject1ai30094.html. Activists believe that many more weremoved to make way for new roads for the Expo or new buildings in orderto‘beautify’ the city. Developers have also used the excuse—thatresidents needto move to make way for the Expo—when in practice the vacated land wasthenused for commercial development unrelated to the Expo.

[3] “俞正声同志就上海党建接受媒体专访,” News of the CommunistParty of China, November 17, 2009, http://cpc.people.com.cn/GB/64093/64094/10388522.html.

[4] For a copy of this notice, please see: http://crd-net.org/Article/Class53/201004/20100413233417_20778.html

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