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Open Letter Signatory Han Lifa Detained

January 8, 2003

For Immediate Release

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned of the secret detention of dissident Han Lifa, one of 192 opposition activists who signed an open letter to China’s 16th Party Congress calling for political reform.

According to dissident Cai Guihua and other sources, Shanghai Public Security police arrested Han Lifa on December 26, making him the seventh signatory known to have been arrested since the open letter was published in early November.

According to one knowledgeable source, Han Lifa realized that he might be arrested following publication of the open letter, and for that reason had left Shanghai on business, only to be arrested while on his trip. According to reliable information, Han Lifa’s family only learned of his arrest recently when the Yangpu division of Shanghai’s Public Security Bureau recently directed his brother to bring some personal affects to him in detention. Up to the present, however, the PSB has not informed Han’s family of the reason for his arrest, nor has it provided them with any legal documentation.

Other signatories currently known to be in detention include Shaanxi-based Zhao Changqing, who drafted the open letter, and key participants Ouyang Yi, Dai Xuezhong, Jiang Lijun, He Depu, and Sang Jianchen. Of the seven dissidents known to be detained, only Zhao Changqing has been formally arrested. The others are still under secret detention with no due process.

HRIC has reason to believe other signatories have also been detained, but their fates remain unknown because their families wish to keep the matter under wraps, or because families and friends are themselves unaware of the arrests.

The open letter made six political demands, including reassessment of the 1989 democracy movement; allowing political exiles to return to China; restoring Zhao Ziyang’s political rights and releasing him from house arrest; releasing all prisoners of conscience; pushing the National People’s Congress to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and bringing domestic law into conformity with international treaties; and expanding democratic elections from the villages and municipalities to national elections.

Han Lifa, born in 1968, is a long-time participant in China’s democratization movement. Since beginning his political activism in 1989 Han has been sentenced to Reform Through Labor three times, including two sentences of three years each. He was released in July 2001 after completing his last sentence of nine months.

HRIC deeply regrets the Chinese government’s actions against people peacefully expressing their political views. HRIC president Liu Qing says, “The Chinese government can’t possibly justify its harsh action against participants in such a benign political action. This case only goes to show the Chinese government’s complete intolerance of any political views diverging from its own. If such arrests are allowed to continue there can be little hope of China making any progress at all in its democratic development.”

HRIC urges the international community to take an active interest in these arrests and exert pressure on the Chinese government to release Han Lifa and all other signatories of the open letter.

For more information, contact:
Stacy Mosher (English) 212-268-9074
Liu Qing (Chinese) 212-239-4495

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