China: Miliband must insist there is no repeat of Tiananmen square, says Amnesty
As UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband heads to China this week, Amnesty International has urged him to insist that peaceful protests during the Beijing Olympics are not met with state violence.
In a briefing sent to the Foreign Secretary, Amnesty is calling on David Miliband to raise publicly the issue of human rights. People in China cannot do so without fear of persecution: journalists, lawyers and activists who speak out on human rights issues do so at great risk of intimidation, persecution and arrest.
The organisation particularly asks David Miliband to push for the release of Ye Guozhu. In 2004 he attempted to stage a protest against his house and restaurant being demolished to make way for Olympics construction, even applying for official permission to protest. He was imprisoned for four years and has reportedly been tortured with electro-shock batons in prison.
Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:
“There must be no repeat of Tiananmen Square in August this year. People have a right to protest peacefully before, during and after the Beijing Olympics. David Miliband must insist that any ‘civilian surge’ for human rights in China is not met with violent repression.
“The omens so far are not good. We are already seeing intensifying repression of human rights activists, their families and supporters.
“David Miliband must speak out publicly about human rights in China, not least because ordinary people in the country cannot do so without fear of persecution. The UK government has been conspicuously silent about the deteriorating human rights situation in the lead up to the Beijing Games.
“The Foreign Secretary should show that Britain’s principled commitment to human rights, free speech and the right to peaceful protest does not play second fiddle to a desire for trade deals.”
Amnesty International is calling on the Chinese government to fulfill its promise to improve human rights as part of the Olympic legacy. The organisation has identified four key areas of concern that must be addressed in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in August:
Harassment Of People Who Stand Up For Human Rights
People who speak out on politically-sensitive topics are frequently put under house arrest or imprisoned. They include defence lawyers, journalists, workers’ rights activists, villagers protesting against land seizures and relatives of people killed in the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989. Repression appears to be getting worse as the Olympics approach.
Internet Repression And Media Freedom
Hundreds of websites are blocked or banned in China. Search results are filtered, and websites censored, including those using words like ‘freedom’, ‘human rights’ and ‘Amnesty International’. With around 30 journalists and 50 Internet users known to be behind bars, China has been branded ‘the world’s leading jailer of journalists’. Domestic journalists face severe restrictions and censorship, and those investigating sensitive stories risk dismissal, intimidation, harassment or arrest.
Shi Tao, a 39-year-old journalist, is currently serving ten years in prison for sending an email. When he received government instructions on how to report the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, he forwarded their email to a human rights organisation using his Yahoo! account. Yahoo! provided the authorities with the account details that were used to convict him.
Re-Education Through Labour
People are detained in Re-education Through Labour camps for up to four years without any trial, often in harsh conditions. It is frequently used against petty criminals, critics of the government or followers of banned beliefs. Beijing police have been ‘cleaning up’ the city before the Olympics by detaining people into Re-education Through Labour camps.
China executes more people each year than the rest of the world combined. Media reports say at least 1,010 people were executed in 2006 in China, but reliable estimates suggest that 8,000 per year may be executed – 22 people every day. The true figure remains a state secret. Over 60 crimes are punishable by death and many are non-violent, including tax evasion, bribery and smuggling.
Amnesty International is campaigning for the Beijing Olympics to leave a lasting legacy of improvements in human rights for China. More information about the campaign can be found at: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/china
Journalists writing about China and the Olympics can download a Media Kit detailing key human rights concerns at:
Photographs of Ye Guozhu and Shi Tao are available from the Amnesty press office.