For Immediate Release
Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned from reliable sources that Christian activist Hua Huiqi and a group of Beijing residents staged a protest march at midnight January 4 Beijing time. The group started out at Hua’s home and intended to march to Tiananmen Square, but police stopped the protesters en route, loaded them into a police vehicle, and returned them to Hua’s home.
Speaking with HRIC on a cell phone after the protesters were apprehended, Hua Huiqi said the march involved eight people from five families, and included a handicapped person and another aged over 70. Hua said the group was protesting a recent notice posted by Beijing authorities obliging them to leave their present homes by December 31. When they refused to go, the authorities began to exert pressure on them by cutting off their supply of water and electricity.
Hua and the others had applied for a public assembly permit on December 28, but had not received a reply by the time they set off on their protest march. According to information, the group encountered four or five police vehicles on the way to Tiananmen Square, and at least 15 police officers escorted them into the vehicles, saying that the group was not allowed to march without a permit. According to latest information, the group remains under close surveillance at Hua Huiqi’s home.
Hua and the other protesters have all been subjected to forced clearances of their homes in certain Beijing districts. Police forcibly removed Hua’s family from their home after they failed to agree on terms with the developer, and family members have been detained and beaten on a number of occasions since then. Their present home in Beijing’s Fengtai district is constantly surrounded by police vehicles, turning it into a virtual prison.
Hua’s father, Hua Zaichen, spent more than 20 years in Reeducation Through Labor (laodong jiaoyang), after which he and his wife Shuang Shuying became outspoken opponents of RTL. Over the past half year Hua Huiqi and his family have been detained repeatedly for their protests alleging official complicity with business interests carrying out forced clearance in Beijing. Hua Huiqi and his wife, Ju Mei, have also been under official pressure as active members of a house church, and around the time of the 16th Party Congress in November they were forcibly removed from Beijing to Shanxi.
Beijing’s clearance of some neighborhoods in preparation for its hosting of the Olympic Games in 2008 has already drawn international attention as a human rights issue. The main complaint of residents is that they have not been put on an equal footing in negotiating with developers regarding the clearance, and as a result they have suffered unreasonable hardship through inadequate compensation.
HRIC president Liu Qing observes, “The hard line that Beijing authorities have taken against the Hua family and other protesters only reinforces the impression that the authorities are in league with developers in depriving residents of reasonable compensation. The virtual house arrest of the Hua family in particular has deprived them not only of their freedom, but also of the means to support themselves.”
HRIC calls on the Beijing authorities to take a genuinely objective mediating position between displaced residents and developers so their dispute can be resolved equitably and amicably, rather than simply by trying to silence the complaining residents through persecution.
For more information, contact:
Stacy Mosher (English) 212-268-9074
Liu Qing (Chinese) 212-239-4495