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China: Olympics evictions protester kept in prison unitl after Games are over in bid to silence him

Amnesty International today demanded the immediate release of Beijing housing rights activist Ye Guozhu. He was due to be released on Saturday 26 July, but will now remain imprisoned until 1 October, after the end of the 2008 Olympic Games.

Amnesty International UK China Campaign Manager Kristyan Benedict said:

"Ye Guozhu is being kept in prison to silence his protests about people who were forcibly evicted from their homes in Beijing to make room for the Olympics. He himself lost his home and family restaurant to Olympic developers.

"This flies in the face of the promises the Chinese authorities made to improve human rights before the start of the Games."

According to Ye's family, the Chaobai prison authorities telephoned them on 22 July, informing the family they should not go to the prison to receive Ye Guozhu on 26 July, the original date for his release. The prison authorities said that Beijing Xuanwu district police had taken Ye away. The Xuanwu District police later said that for the good of the family and to keep them out of trouble during the Olympic Games, the police would take care of Ye Guozhu but would not allow him to return home until sometime after 1 October 2008. The police refused to let the family meet Ye Guozhu or tell them where he is now being detained.

Ye Guozhu, considered by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, was sentenced to four years' imprisonment in December 2004 for "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble" after he applied for official permission to hold a public demonstration against forced evictions in Beijing. He had been evicted from his home and his family restaurant had been destroyed to make way for Olympic venues.

In 2006 it emerged that Ye was tortured while in detention. Police at the Dongcheng district detention centre in Beijing reportedly suspended him from the ceiling by his arms and repeatedly beat him and he was allegedly tortured with electro-shock batons as well. He was also reportedly tortured in another prison in the second half of 2005.

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