China and Burma? So much for being a good citizen...

A natural disaster hits. The good citizen’s instant response is to help. And as a reward you’d expect a nice pat on the back, perhaps even a bit of positive publicity.Well not, it appears, if you happen to reside in Burma or China.This weekend Amnesty used the anniversaries of Cyclone Nargis in Burma and the Sichuan earthquake in China to highlight the appalling treatment dished out to a number of individuals who tried to help.In China, the authorities have intimidated and unlawfully detained parents and relatives of children who died in the earthquake, and harassed activists and lawyers who tried to assist them, according to a new Amnesty report. The report reveals that some parents and relatives were detained for up to 21 days for trying to seek answers from officials about why their children died. The youngest detainee, as reported in The Telegraph, was just eight years old.The Independent, meanwhile, highlighted the case of Huang Qi, a Sichuan-based human rights activist who has been detained since June 2008 on suspicion of “unlawfully holding documents classified as highly secret”. His detention appears to be connected to his work assisting the families of five primary school pupils who died when their school buildings collapsed in the earthquake. The families were seeking compensation from local officials because they believed corruption led to poor construction standards.So much for trying to help. And Burma? A year ago Cyclone Nargis hit Burma killing tens of thousands of people. So how did the Burmese junta react? Well it’s just jailed six people for helping to bury the victims in the devastated Irrawaddy Delta in southern Burma. The six – Dr Nay Win and his daughter Phyo Phyo Aung, Aung Kyaw San, Lin Htet Naing (aka Aung Thant Zin Oo), Phone Pyeit Kywe and Shein Yazar Tun –were sentenced on 10 April 2009 to prison terms ranging from two to four years. Meanwhile, the popular comedian Zarganar is serving a 35-year prison sentence for leading a private donor movement that emerged in the aftermath of the cyclone. Now that’s a joke. But then free speech is hardly valued in Burma. The country was recently named by the Committee to Protect Journalists as the worst country in the world to be a blogger.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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