Human Rights in China Press Release

Human Rights in China
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One year after the release of a petition calling on the Chinese government to mark the United Nations' Year of Tolerance by releasing political prisoners and instituting a climate of political tolerance and dialogue, two of the 45 original signatories, Wang Dan and Liu Nianchun, are in incommunicado detention w e a o a of nine were detained during the course of the year for their involvement in this and other peaceful protest activities. Many of the signatories were harassed or put under house arrest for signing the petition, while at least one individual was fired from her job.

In the course of the year, Human Rights in China and other organizations collected over 1,000 signatures overseas supporting the Tolerance Petition and urging the Chinese government to act on its suggestions. Of these supporting signatories, five are former Nobel Peace Prize winners: His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Mairead Maguire and Elie Wiesel; while at least five are recipients of other Nobel prizes: Japanese novelist Kenzaburo Oe, biologist Dr. David Baltimore, chemist Dr. Jerome Karle, Dr. Joshua Lederberg, MD, and neurologist Dr. Torsten N. Wiesel. Other prominent signatories include; Human Rights Watch Chairman Robert L. Bernstein, 1989 student leaders Chai Ling and Li Lu, Kerry Kennedy Cuomo of the RFK Memorial Human Rights Center, philosopher Jacques Derrida, astrophysicist Fang Lizhi, poet Allen Ginzberg, New York Academy of Sciences President Dr. Henry Greenberg, Hong Kong LegCo member Christine Loh, writer Bette Bao Lord, Senator Connie Mack, playwright Arthur Miller, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and writer Susan Sontag. A great proportion of signatories are academics, particularly in the sciences.

Original petition signers Wang Dan, a former 1 989 student leader, and Liu Nianchun, a veteran labor and human rights activist, are still being held incommunicado without charge one year after being taken from their homes by police. Despite repeated appeals to the Chinese authorities and the international community, their families have been unable to obtain any information on their whereabouts or the reasons they continue to be detained. In response to media questions, the authorities have recently stated that Wang Dan is 'in Beijing' while both are said to be held under ..residential surveillance' (jianshe juzhu), a measure which a range of authoritative Chinese legal sources, including a Supreme People's Court judge, have stated is intended to be a form of house arrest.

Following the May 15, 1995, release of the petition, initiator Lin Mu, poet Huang Xiang, scholar Bao Zunxin and activists Jiang Qisheng and Yang Hai were detained. Ding Zilin and Jiang Peikun, who have campaigned for the families of the victims of the June

Fourth Massacre, were held for over a month during the Fourth World Conference on Women. Signatory Chen Xiaoya was one of four Chinese Academy of Social Sciences researchers to be fired in recent months without reason. Petition drafter Xu Liangying has been subject to periods of house arrest and regular harassment, as have various other petition signatories.

Meanwhile, the serious issues raised in the petition have not been addressed. China's record on the treatment of dissenting voices has deteriorated in the course of the past year, as arrests, detentions, criminal trials and administrative Reeducation Through Labor terms have been extensively used to silence critics of the government and its human rights practices. Unfortunately, despite this serious situation, the international community has relaxed pressure on China to improve human rights. Last month, despite the huge volume of extensively documented information about human rights violations in China submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Commission by NGOs and U.N. human rights monitoring mechanisms, the Commission--the highest intergovernmental rights body--failed to even discuss a resolution on China's human rights record. This leaves the impression that such violations of basic rights can be carried out with impunity.

'The 45 intellectuals who signed this petition called for tolerance and dialogue,' said Xiao Qiang, executive director of Human Rights in China. 'But their appeals were met with more repression. The Chinese government's hostile attitude to such calls for reasonable debate over national priorities bodes ill for the future. Human rights violations remain systemic and unchecked, and repression of the individuals who raise these problems will only exacerbate the abuse of power by officials which is the source of many of the violations. Along with the more than 1,000 people who signed on to support last year's call for tolerance, we appeal to the international community to take action in support of these brave human rights campaigners, who are speaking about human rights for all Chinese people.'

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