Beijing Continues Jasmine Clampdown
Renewed protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square and recent street demonstrations in Malaysia mean Beijing is unlikely to loosen its grip on dissent, activists said this week. Rights activists in China’s southwestern province of Guizhou said they had come under increasing pressure from the local authorities since large street protest in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur last Saturday.“On Monday the head of the municipal state security police came to visit me with two police officers and warned us not to do anything illegal,” said Guizhou-based civil rights activist, Chen Xi.
“They told us not to start propagating ideas of democracy among the people, or to hold collective gatherings under the aegis of the Human Rights Conference,” he said.
Chen, a leading member of the Guizhou Human Rights Symposium, said the police had also summoned his wife to the police station to issue similar warnings.
“According to my understanding, [fellow activist] Wu Yuqin was also called in ‘for a chat’ to the police department.”
Wu confirmed Chen’s account on Wednesday. “The Chinese Communist Party is pretty nervous at the moment because of the Jasmine revolution,” she said, referring to the recent wave of popular uprisings in the Middle East, which rekindled last week in Egypt’s Tahrir Square.
“They have had us under surveillance since Feb. 18,” she said. “They won’t let us do this, won’t let us do that, won’t let us do anything.”
“Overseas, our organization would be legal, but here it’s a hostile organization,” Wu said.
Meanwhile, Shanghai human rights lawyer Li Tiantian, who wrote an article online congratulating the Egyptian people on overthrowing an authoritarian government, said she was currently being held in a small room by police, who had already beaten her.
Li said via a popular microblogging service that the police had betrayed their own humanity. “Everything about their work is dirty,” she said. “But lawyers have to have contact with them if they are to earn a living.”
“I told them I would start working as a prostitute, because that would be cleaner work than [what they do],” she wrote in a tweet that was soon censored from China’s Sina Weibo microblogging platform.
Chinese authorities have already detained or placed under surveillance dozens of dissidents, rights activists, and lawyers since February as uprisings erupted in the Middle East.
The Arab Spring appeared to have inspired protesters in Malaysia at the weekend, as thousands marched to call for electoral reforms, sparking widespread clashes with police.
Rights groups have called for an independent investigation into the Malaysian police’s use of “excessive force” in handling the demonstrations.
“The government should cease threats and intimidation against the march’s sponsor, the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih), and release all those still detained for exercising their rights to free expression, association, and assembly,” the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement on its website.
“The Malaysian authorities’ crushing of Bersih’s march shows that when basic liberties compete with the entrenched power of the state, the government is quick to throw respect for rights out the window,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“Apparently in Malaysia, freedom of speech, assembly, and association are only permissible when they support the government.”
Bersih is calling for free and fair access to the mainstream press, a minimum 21-day election campaign period, and a cleanup of the electoral rolls.
Human Rights Watch called on the Malaysian government to release six detained Socialist Party members, withdraw public order charges against a further 24 members, and to stop using preventive detention against peaceful demonstrators.
Thousands of pro-democracy activists were camped out in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square this week following renewed protests at the pace of change under the stewardship of the military government, which has run the country since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak earlier this year.
Protesters have continued to take to the streets in other Egyptian cities, including Alexandria, Suez and Port Said.
Reported by Xin Yu for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.