Chinese Dissidents Under Pressure
BEIJING (AP) _ A dissident who urged Chinese to light candles to commemorate those killed in the assault on the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests has been detained and may be sent to a labor camp without trial, a rights group reported today.
Police took Jiang Qisheng from his home in Beijing on May 18 and have refused to tell his wife where he is being held, New York-based Human Rights in China said.
On Monday, police demanded his family turn over cash and clothing, an indication that they were preparing to hold him for some time, possibly in a labor camp, the New York-based group said. Chinese police have the authority to send people to labor camps without trial for three years.
Jiang was a doctoral candidate at People’s University and helped lead the mass demonstrations at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. He spent over a year in prison after the crackdown that ended the protests nearly 10 years ago, on June 4, 1989.
In recent years, Jiang has been among China’s most persistent activists for democracy and human rights, organizing petitions calling for civil rights and social justice. He last week wrote open letters to the government protesting the alleged violent beating police gave to fellow activist Cao Jiahe.
The government has increased its surveillance and harassment of dissidents and their families in recent weeks in what has become a seasonal crackdown to prevent commemorations of the Tiananmen movement and the hundreds if not thousands who were killed there.
Chinese leaders are especially concerned that dissidents will use the 10th anniversary to unite with workers and farmers upset over rising unemployment and stagnating incomes.
Last month, Jiang and 15 other dissidents called on Chinese to mark June 4 by wearing plain clothing, lighting candles and forgoing entertainment.
A small group of senior intellectuals who have called for reforms released an open letter to President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji today calling for Jiang Qisheng’s release.
The letter, also sent to U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson, argued that Chinese have the right to commemorate the victims of the military assault.
Among those signing the letter were Xu Liangying, a scientist who has written articles urging democratic reform, and Ding Zilin and Jiang Peikun, professors whose 17-year-old son was killed in the Tiananmen Square attack.