Chinese authorities in the troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang have launched a new crackdown on millions of cell phone users amid tight security in the wake of last week's violence in the south of the region.
New regulations from the Xinjiang regional government's communications bureau will require anyone buying a SIM card for use with a cell phone to provide proof of identity and register the card to their own name, sources in the regional capital Urumqi said.
In accordance with the special regulations governing Xinjiang, which is home to 9 million minority Uyghurs and is the scene of recurring ethnic violence, the bureau has been meeting with sales representatives for mobile network operators to train them in implementing the "real-name" registration system for SIM cards, according to an Urumqi-based sales representative surnamed Zhang.
"As of May 1, the sellers will be required under the real-name system to ensure that the customer produces their own identity documents," Zhang said.
"They must then transmit a photo of the original ID document to the mobile service provider," he said.
"The traveling sales reps have been called to a meeting every day [since Saturday] to learn about the real-name system," Zhang said.
"My first reaction was not to believe it, because it affects such a large number of customers," he said.
Zhang said local service providers had already begun cutting off service to existing customers to force them to register before continuing to use the service.
"There are a lot of cards already in customers' possession out there," he said. "It's going to have a huge impact on society if you suddenly cut off people's service while they're already using it, and make them reregister," he said.
The move comes just days after 21 people were killed in clashes in Siriqbuya (in Chinese, Selibuya) township in Kashgar prefecture, and after clashes in Hotan's Yengi Awat (Yingawa) village left two people dead.
Police have arrested 19 suspects in connection with the clashes, while propaganda officials and state media have reported that the "terrorists" were caught making explosives and meeting secretly to study the Koran, the interpretation of which is strictly controlled by China's ruling Communist Party.
Chinese authorities blamed the violence on Uyghur "terrorists," but rights groups and experts familiar with the region say Beijing exaggerates a terrorism threat to take the heat off domestic policies that cause unrest or to justify the authorities' use of force against the Uyghur minority.
The Kashgar violence was the worst single episode since deadly clashes between Han Chinese and Uyghurs rocked the Xinjiang capital Urumqi in July 2009, prompting a region-wide blackout of the Internet and cell phone coverage that lasted for months.
At attempt to force pay-as-you-go SIM card customers to register using their real names was made in 2010 in the wake of the Urumqi clashes, but wasn't widely implemented because sales personnel quietly allowed people to buy cards using other people's identities, Zhang said.
"The sales agents got around this by borrowing people's details in large numbers to acquire registration for them, and then reselling the SIM cards in the market," he said.
A directive issued to the region's railways and seen by RFA also requires the administration to clear unofficial hawkers of second-hand phones away from railway property by May 1, in an apparent bid to limit the resale of phones and SIM cards on the black market.
A sales representative at Urumqi Hongshan's flagship mobile phone store confirmed the new move to implement real-name registration from was going ahead on the ground from May 1.
"We got a directive through [for implementation] by May 1," the salesperson said.
"If you have bought a SIM card, you have to come to the sales department and register with your real name," he said.
He said the company had no plans to cancel people's phone service over the May 1 Labor Day holiday, however.
"This will probably start on May 2," he said. "When the time comes, our employees will call you or text you to tell you."
Customers who choose not to comply will have their service terminated, he said, adding that the company's entire network across the region is undergoing changes and an upgrade.
"There is now a real-name registration system in all locations [in Xinjiang]," he said.
"This is according to a directive sent down from the communications bureau of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region government," he added.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
So, the leadership has the right to shout about beating the flies and the tigers at the same time, but the citizens don't have the right to require the seven members of the Politburo standing committee to declare their assets publicly. This utterly legitimate, reasonable and fair request has been deemed "illegal" by the authorities. Since March 31, more than eight honorable men and women have been detained, while Ms. Hou Xin was granted medical parole because she was forced into emergency treatment for a heart attack. The other seven remain behind bars. Only the leadership is allowed to fight corruption, it seems; ordinary people are outlawed as soon as they open their mouths. This is a strange phenomenon native to today's China.
Three days after the April 20 earthquake in Ya'an [in Sichuan province], more than two thousand quake victims in Baoxing county were left—hungry and cold—to fend for themselves while awaiting rescue. Six days after the quake, there was still a shortage of relief supplies, and the situation continues to deteriorate. The government isn't making enough effort, but they prevent civic and charity groups from entering the quake-hit disaster area. On the day of the disaster, Mr. Huang Qi and four others from the [non-government] Skynet disaster relief group rushed at full speed to Ya'an, but were intercepted by police on arrival and warned not to enter the disaster area because of the "chaos." It is well-known that it was Mr. Huang who reported the truth about the "bean curd" school buildings [which killed thousands of children] during the  earthquake in Wenchuan county.
Making sure the truth is widely known can only help the quake victims. Dressing it up to look great only helps the orchestrators of the main theme tune. But under the "stability over everything" approach, the cover-up boosts the [government's] account of its performance, whereas reporting the truth is regarded as making trouble, and must be kept out of the disaster area. They are still unable to extricate themselves from this attitude that they had in the past. This gives people a transparent example in which to experience the continuity and the predictability of the main theme tune.
While the main theme tune also includes fighting corruption and disaster relief work, its main footing comes from stability maintenance. That's why it must look at the fight against corruption and the disaster relief effort through the tinted lenses of stability maintenance. From the point of view of the main theme tune, fighting corruption and disaster relief aren't important in themselves; they are only important as means to stave off political instability, of which the orchestrators live in fear, day and night.
In a civil society, freedom of expression and freedom of the press are a basic right for all citizens that they can't live without, like air and sunshine. Any major problems faced by such a society are inseparable from the free flow of information and the free expression of public opinion. But when the orchestrators of the main theme tune insist on wearing their tinted glasses, it's hard not to see the rights of citizens as "causing trouble," and hard not to deem them "illegal." The main theme tune doesn't care whether or not there is a single right of its citizens that remains unviolated. All it cares about is maintaining the stability of the leadership's grip on power.
Such is [propaganda minister] Liu Yunshan's vision and outlook on life. He doesn't need to worry about messy reality coming at him from all directions. Neither does he need the free exchange of public opinion. He is only interested in a filtered and audited report, and in whether or not the spirit of his top-down commands is indoctrinating those under him. To use one of Mao Zedong's sayings, this is called "grasping ideology," "grasping politics," "the soul of ideology," and "politics as commander-in-chief." If you grasp tightly enough, you will be able to unify everyone's ideas, until the dream comes true.
I have no basis on which to judge whether or not this is the consensus of all seven members of the Politburo standing committee. I can only make a limited guess on the basis of the facts. But in the eyes of standing committee member Liu, the China he has in mind can only be one in which everything is stood on its head.
In his country, there are only heads and mouths, so that to stand up means to stand on one's head. So-called soft power only uses the mouth to blow the shrill whistle. But don't we need hands as well? It seems we do. Because hands are the cheapest and most effective tools of production and of combat. However, they must submit to the direction of the main theme tune, or risk greater instability and chaos, and become alienated from the body politic.
As for the feet, do we need them? We don't really want them; we're better off without them. The most stable society is one that has no movement. The children of the people are to be directed and put to work, one generation after another, followers for all eternity. The children of officials, on the other hand, are destined for office, to conquer and rule over the country, and of course this should continue for all eternity, a leadership in perpetuity. All we need is harmony between the rulers and the ruled, and the legend, the dream of perpetual political power will indeed become a reality.
So, they stand things on their heads to achieve more stability: to achieve a super-stable system. Such is the main theme tune, that has met with more failures than successes. I can't for the life of me work out what Mr. Liu's next move will be. Will he resign, or does he intend to submit a bill to the National People's Congress to formalize the view that it is illegal to call on officials to declare their assets publicly?
Translated by Luisetta Mudie.
Bao Tong, political aide to the late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.
A long-awaited official report on last year’s deadly communal violence in Burma’s Rakhine state has recommended that security forces be doubled in the area and more aid be channeled to help minority Muslim Rohingyas displaced in the clashes with ethnic Buddhists.
The report presented at a press conference in Rangoon by the government-appointed commission on Monday also recommended a process to examine the citizenship status of the largely stateless Rohingyas but did not hint of any major reforms that will embrace them as citizens.
“The government should double the strength of the Tatmadaw [military], the police force, intelligence personnel, and Na-Sa-Ka [border security force] personnel assigned to Rakhine State to control and prevent further violence,” the report said.
The security forces should also be better equipped with more resources, while navy patrols should be bolstered and a maritime police force established to deter immigrants arriving by boat, it said.
The recommendations follow a report last week from Human Rights Watch accusing security forces of complicity in “ethnic cleansing" against the Rohingya, regarded in Burma as immigrants from Bangladesh even though they have long lived in the country.
The report, which did not state the current size of the security forces in the state, came nearly a year after the first of two major clashes between Rohingyas and ethnic Buddhist Rakhines occurred in June 2012.
The June violence together with clashes in October left at least 192 dead and 140,000 homeless, most of them Rohingyas who rights groups say bore the brunt of the worst communal violence in decades.
Chairman of the commission Kyaw Yin Hlaing told a press conference that the panel also found that Rohingya refugee camps needed more aid than those housing Rakhines.
“We included a fact that camps for ethnic Rakhines are fairly good and the camps for [Rohingyas] are not as good,” he said.
Examining citizenship status
The report also asked the government “to urgently initiate a process for examining the citizenship status” of the estimated 800,000 Rohingyas in Rakhine State.
It said the process should be implemented according to the “provisions of the current 1982 Citizenship Law,” which officials had previously had said only recognized Rohingya whose families settled in the country before independence from Britain in 1948 as citizens.
While the citizenship status of many Rohingyas living in refugee camps since the clashes “remained unclear,” the government should protect their security and ensure their basic needs are met, the report said.
The commission’s report said that ongoing tensions called for “temporary separation” of the Rohingya and Rakhine communities to be enforced until “overt emotions subside,” making it unlikely displaced Rohingyas will be resettled in their homes anytime soon.
Ko Ko Gyi, a commission member and leader of the 88 Generation Students civil society group, said the Rakhine and Rohningya communities should remain segregated for the time being to avoid further violence.
“We need to take our time to bring normalcy to the different communities that cannot live together in the same place right now,” he said.
'Failure' to account for 'ethnic cleansing'
Human Rights Watch criticized the report, saying the authorities should first investigate reports of crimes committed by security forces during the violence before giving them additional powers and resources.
The report “fails to address the need for accountability for ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity,” the group’s Asia deputy director Phil Robertson said.
"Doubling the number of security forces in Arakan [Rakhine] state without first ensuring implementation of reforms to end those forces’ impunity is a potential disaster,” he said.
Robertson also said that the commission had “missed a critical point” in failing to include reform of the Citizenship Law in its recommendations.
Family planning and population growth
One factor in the violence was the “rapid population growth” of Rohingyas in the state that had fueled insecurity among Rakhines, the report said, recommending family planning measures among the Rohingya as a way to mitigate future tensions.
Rakhines’ concern about the rise of the Rohingya population had “undermined” the “peaceful coexistence” of the two communities, the report said.
Another cause of last year’s violence, the report said, was that the government did not have enough information about Rakhine “nationalist associations” to take “precautionary measures” against their activities.
Referring to Rohingyas under the official term of “Bengali,” which refers to immigrants from Bangladesh, the report said there was a “widely-held belief” among Rakhines in the area that “all Bengalis are illegal immigrants.”
But the government should still be responsible for their basic well-being, it said, taking a tone more welcoming toward the group than the government’s initial response to the violence.
“The government will have to meet the basic needs of non-citizens if they are denied livelihoods,” the report said.
In July, following the first wave of violence, President Thein Sein had called on the U.N.’s refugee agency to place Rohingyas living “illegally” in the country in refugee camps or have them sent abroad, saying Burma “cannot accept them.”
But ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s landmark visit to Burma in November, he said his government will consider resolving the contentious rights issues facing the Rohingya minority, including the possibility of providing them citizenship.
He said that “once emotions subside on all sides,” his government would be prepared to “address contentious political dimensions, ranging from resettlement of displaced populations to granting of citizenship” for the Rohingyas.
The 27-member commission, which comprises community leaders, was established in August, 2012 and submitted its report after interviewing more than 2,000 local residents in Rakhine.
“Both [the Rakhine and Rohingya] sides told us various versions of the problems Kyaw Yin Hlaing said.
“We have considered and decided which version could be correct among those versions.”
Reported by RFA’s Burmese Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.
Hundreds of villagers held a protest Monday to back their persistent calls for a government probe into a harsh crackdown on protesters against a controversial China-backed copper mine in northern Burma’s Sagaing division that left more than 100 injured and was strongly condemned by rights groups.
More than 500 people marched from Ton village in Sagaing to the office of the Letpadaung mine developer, demanding an end to the project and calling on authorities to prosecute those responsible for a Nov. 29 pre-dawn raid which saw police use smoke bombs containing highly flammable phosphorous to disperse protesters.
“It is the five-month anniversary of the crackdown on the Mount Letpadaung [protest] area,” a local resident who gave his name as Thura told RFA’s Burmese service.
“We also protested today against the invoking of Section 144 [around the site of the mine],” Thura said, referring to a provision that allows authorities emergency powers to declare an area off-limits in the interest of public order.
More than 100 protesters, nearly all of them monks, were injured in the raid, the toughest crackdown on demonstrators since President Thein Sein's reformist government came to power in March 2011.
The crackdown prompted a government probe into the future of the mine, and last month the inquiry panel recommended that the project be allowed to proceed, despite conceding it only brought "slight" benefits to the nation.
Thura said protesters also urged authorities to return land they say was illegally occupied by the mine project—a joint venture between the Burmese military's Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL) and Wan Bao Co., a subsidiary of a Chinese arms manufacturer.
Protesters successfully obtained permits to hold the demonstration but the authorities wanted the number of participants to be trimmed to 500.
“We received permission to protest from the Sarlingyi [township] police station and they allowed us to protest from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. We marched from Ton Village to the Wan Bao Co. compound,” he said.
“We saw police, and both military and police intelligence, lurking around the protesters and taking notes.”
Thura said that the group of protesters was made up predominantly of residents from nearby Ton, Moegyopyin, Setae, Kyautphyusai and Zeetaw villages.
Win Tin, a farmer from Hse Te village, said protest organizers requested permission for 800 people to join the protest but were told to limit the gathering to 500, The Irrawaddy online journal reported.
Protesters told RFA that they would continue to hold demonstrations until their demands were met.
Also on Monday, around 20 people held an hour-long demonstration in front of Rangoon city hall calling for the release of three activists detained during a protest near the mine site last Thursday.
They also highlighted concerns that authorities had not released any findings about the November crackdown.
The protesters in Rangoon read aloud statements from monks of the Letpadaung area, including Ashin Pamhoutka who had assisted villagers during last week’s demonstration, and called for an end to the mine project.
Moe Thway from the 88 Generation Student’s Group, a prominent Burmese civil society organization based in Rangoon, said the government must heed the will of the people who oppose the mine.
“We are protesting to let the government know what we want. If it is a real government for the people, it needs to listen to the voice of the people,” he said.
“The current government always says that it is the people’s government and that it should be seen as different from the previous military government. But if it doesn’t want to be seen in the same way, the new government must not act like a fascist regime.”
Moe Thway said the government must also end the use of Section 144 in the Letpadaung area.
Last Thursday, three people were arrested and others injured after police shot and beat protesting farmers and activists in the first major violence surrounding the mine since the crackdown last year. A group of farmers had been plowing fields that had been taken for the project.
On Friday, hundreds of people marched from Ton village to the police station in Sarlingyi township, calling for the release of those detained during Thursday’s demonstration. They were forced to return home after police blocked their path and threatened to shoot anyone who continued beyond a certain point.
Local police announced over the weekend that they will file charges against eight activists who they say incited the protests on Thursday and Friday and have issued orders for their arrests.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in a statement Monday condemned the announcement “in the strongest terms,” saying the eight activists had simply exercised their democratic rights to freedom of assembly and expression.
“The announcement by the Sagaing Region police is just the latest illustration of how far authorities are prepared to stray from the supposedly democratic path that they claim to be treading, in order to protect the interests of crony businesses and ensure continued impunity for the police in their handling of the Letpadaung mine affair,” the statement said.
“All [the activists] are doing is asking that the rights of the occupants of the affected land be respected accordingly, and that they be treated as partners in dialogue rather than as the subjects of decisions made from above, as in the days of direct military government.”
The AHRC called on the Sagaing police to retract the announcement and drop charges against the activists, release the three activists detained last week from custody, and criminally investigate those responsible for the November crackdown on the mine protesters.
Reported by Zin Mar Win, Nay Myo Tin and Kyaw Htun Naing for RFA’s Burmese Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.
A Uyghur student at the Beijing-based Central University for Nationalities has been seriously assaulted by his Han Chinese roommates, sparking protests and an order by university authorities for the two ethnic groups to be housed separately in a bid to ease tensions, according to a student.
Memetjan Ali, a third-year student majoring in Uyghur language and literature, was beaten last Wednesday, a day after the worst violence in four years occurred in China's northwestern Xinjiang region—home to the mostly Muslim minority Uyghurs who complain of discrimination by the country’s majority Han Chinese.
Memetjan Ali was watching television with his three Han Chinese roommates in their dormitory when one of them approached him and squeezed his neck, one of his Uyghur classmates told RFA's Uyghur Service.
Memetjan Ali tried to leave the dorm but he was prevented from doing so, with the other Chinese classmates also joining in and assaulting and abusing him.
"One of the Chinese boys abused him with vulgar words and suddenly punched his face. At that moment, another one hit his head with a chair from his back while one of them held him firmly," the classmate said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The seriously injured Memetjan Ali has been hospitalized with his condition reported as stable but the incident has raised concerns among his Uyghur university mates.
Some of them gathered at the university's grounds, demanding justice and urgent medical attention for him, the classmate said.
The three Chinese students were detained, but two of them were released after questioning, he said. It is not immediately clear whether charges will be pressed on any one of them.
The university authorities have paid for Memetjan Ali’s medical expenses, according to nurses in the hospital.
To ease tensions at the university, the authorities decided to have Uyghurs and Han Chinese stay separately in the dormitories.
“Now Uyghur students are staying with Uyghur students in the dormitory and we feel more secure than before,” said one Uyghur female student.
But another student said: “That doesn’t mean we are safe."
"We are still living in a Chinese city, studying in a Chinese school, and we are outnumbered.”
RFA's Mandarin Service called up the university to inquire about the alleged assault but a staffer said, "We are not clear what's going on."
The university's students department, when contacted, said, "We never heard of this incident."
Exile Uyghur activists linked the incident to the April 23 violence in Siriqbuya (Selibuya) township in Xinjiang's Kashgar prefecture in which 21 people were killed.
Chinese authorities blamed the violence on so-called Uyghur "terrorists," but rights groups and experts familiar with the region say Beijing exaggerates a terrorism threat to take the heat off domestic policies that cause unrest or to justify the authorities' use of force against the Uyghur minority.
The charges leveled against the Uyghurs have intensified Han Chinese hatred against the ethnic group, Uyghur activists said.
“Recent Chinese state media’s lies about the violence in Kashgar have increased ethnic hatred again," said Adil Abbas, an Uyghur activist and vice-president of the Uyghur Canadian Society.
"They heavily painted Uyghurs with terrorism charges to cover government violence against the Uyghurs, increasing hatred against the Uyghurs," he said.
"It is obvious that the dominant force of hate crimes such as what happened in the Central University for Nationalities is the Chinese government itself because their state sponsored media always lies and slanders about the Uyghurs,” Adil Abbas said.
Chinese state media reported Monday that 11 more suspects have been arrested in addition to eight held on the day the Siriqbuya violence occurred.
The state media had charged that the violence erupted after community officials on patrol were attacked by Uyghur "terrorists" armed with knives at a house.
Reinforcements were called, and in the ensuing shootout six of the suspects were killed, state media said. Others were killed either after being slashed by the suspects or burned to death when the house was torched, state media reports said.
In total, 16 Uyghurs, three Han Chinese, and two Mongolians were killed in the Siriqbuya violence—the worst since ethnic clashes between Uyghurs and Han Chinese rocked Xinjiang's regional capital of Urumqi in 2009, killing nearly 200.
State news agency Xinhua, citing Xinjiang police, said on Monday that the suspects were from a "terrorist group" that was founded in September 2012 and the deadly clashes broke out when they were caught making explosives.
The report said they watched terrorist video clips, had tested explosive devices, and planned to "do something big" in the densely populated areas of Kashgar in the summer.
"The claims of terrorism are suspected of being an excuse to oppress Uyghurs," Dilshat Rexit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, said in an email to Agence France-Presse.
He called on Chinese authorities to publish an independent investigation into their accusations of terrorism, echoing an earlier call by the United States which was dismissed by Beijing as evidence of a "double standard."
A Uyghur farmer in Seriqbuya township told RFA's Uyghur Service that some of those arrested were from the township's Number Three Village.
"They also arrested the uncle and son of a Uyghur man who was [allegedly] involved in the fight. The arrested person’s name was Ahmet Turadin, but I don't know his son’s name," the farmer said.
"Another person who was arrested was renting a house next door to that of Ahmet Turadin."
Security has also been bolstered in Kashgar, with one Uyghur lady who returned to her village from Kashgar late Sunday saying checkpoints had been set up along highways.
Reported by Rukiye Turdush and Jilil Musha for RFA's Uyghur Service and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma and Feng Xiaoming. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.
Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong detained four people following violent clashes at the weekend, after popular anger over a long-running land dispute in the rebel village of Wukan boiled over once more.
Residents said police used tear gas to disperse the crowds during Saturday's clashes before moving to take protesters into custody.
"The detained villagers included a woman in her 30s who was lifted into a police vehicle by armed police," said a resident of Wukan surnamed Zhang, who witnessed Saturday's clashes between police and land protesters.
He said three men had also been detained during the protest, which began as a peaceful sit-in on a public highway, and that the families of those detained didn't know where they were being held.
"The people who led the sit-in have left the village," Zhang said, adding that the villagers feared the authorities would mete out a heavy punishment to the detained protesters.
He said police had "fired a lot" of tear gas in the melee.
"After they deployed the tear gas, they started detaining people," Zhang said.
He said an unknown number of villagers were injured during the clashes.
"One of the people who led the sit-in was beaten up very badly," he said. "Now, the villagers dare not go out and block the road any more."
Repeated calls to the cell phone number of Wukan village committee deputy chairman Yang Semao went unanswered on Monday.
However, committee member Zhang Jiancheng said the committee had promised to hold talks with government officials in nearby Lufeng city, which administers Wukan, over the village's long-running attempt to retrieve its farmland, which was sold off piece-meal over many years by former Communist Party village chief Xue Chang.
Bid for farmland
Xue Chang was ousted after four decades in charge of Wukan following a protracted campaign of peaceful protest and a face-off over roadblocks and barricades with armed police in December 2011.
Yang Semao, Zhang Jiancheng and fellow committee members voted in during fresh elections in March 2012, but have been repeatedly stymied in their quest to retrieve the lost farmland.
However, one tranche of more than 450 mu (74 acres) of farmland was handed back to the committee last month by Lufeng Fengtian Livestock, owned by Hong Kong businessman Chan Man Ching.
But villagers said the land was in a far worse state than when it was leased to Fengtian.
According to Zhang Jiancheng—who was one of three protesters detained at the height of the protests in December, another of whom died in police custody—the villagers were incited to fresh protest last Friday by political allies of Xue Chang.
"A lot of the farmland and grazing land has been ruined by former tenants, and a lot of the villagers are very angry about this," he said, adding that a compensation deal had already been agreed with Fengtian for the degradation of the land.
"Some people have been inciting the villagers to block the road in protest," Zhang Jiancheng said, adding that it had been hard for the newly elected committee to rebuild public trust.
"The members will continue to work hard to address the land degradation issue with Fengtian, and to deal fairly with this matter," he said.
'Strangers' in the crowd
The Wukan resident surnamed Zhang also said that villagers had noticed a number of strangers among the original crowd who went to protest outside the village committee on Friday, before the sit-in protest began, suggesting to some that the protest was in some way provoked.
"Their aim isn't to try to get land back for the village; it's to try to overthrow the village committee," he said.
The current committee is entirely composed of former leaders of 2011's violent siege of Wukan, who were voted in by villagers in March 2012.
The requisitioning of rural land for lucrative property deals by cash-hungry local governments triggers thousands of "mass incidents" across China every year, but many result in violent suppression, the detention of the main organizers, and intense pressure on the local population to comply with the government's wishes.
In the case of Wukan, however, the standoff with armed police who encircled the village sparked rare concessions following an investigation by the provincial government of Guangdong, which concluded that most of the villagers' demands and complaints were justified.
Reported by Fung Yat-yiu for RFA's Cantonese service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
China's coal production has posted a rare decline, raising new questions about the strength of the economy.
Production of China's main fuel fell 0.95 percent in the first quarter from the year-earlier period to 830 million metric tons, while consumption increased only 1.5 percent, the China Coal Industry Association said.
The results may raise concerns that China's slowdown has been more serious than the 7.7-percent growth rate of China's gross domestic product (GDP)—an estimate of the market value of a country’s goods and services—reported for the first quarter of the year.
Coal output dropped 1.7 percent in March as sales dipped 2.1 percent from a year before, the industry group said. Last year, production rose 4 percent to 3.66 billion tons.
Weak power sector
The power sector has also been unusually weak. Quarterly electricity consumption grew 4.3 percent, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing the National Energy Administration.
In the corresponding quarter of 2012, power use rose 6.8 percent as GDP grew at an 8.1-percent pace.
This year's slowdown appears pronounced in the primary sector, covering production and extraction of resources, with its quarterly electricity use rising just 0.3 percent.
Total power use also stagnated as the quarter progressed. Electricity consumption edged up 2 percent in March, Bloomberg News said. Power use grew at a 5.5-percent rate last year.
GDP reports in doubt
Analysts often look to power consumption as a more reliable indicator of economic activity, particularly in China where official GDP figures have been subject to doubt.
China's official data has come into question twice in recent weeks with reports that the General Administration of Customs (GAC) overstated exports for several months due to widespread tax rebate fraud.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report of first-quarter GDP then fell short of analysts' forecasts, but the power and coal figures now suggest that growth may have been even lower than NBS estimates.
For China's coal companies, the drop in output may bring more pressure on an industry that doubled in the past decade to produce more than half of the world's high-polluting fuel.
Steam coal prices fell sharply in early 2012 and have stayed at low levels ever since. On April 17, China's benchmark coal price stood at 615 yuan (U.S. $99.46) per ton, Reuters reported, citing the Bohai-Rim Steam Coal Price Index.
Platts energy news service quoted one trader as saying that prices could drop to 513 yuan (U.S. $82.98) per ton exclusive of value-added tax (VAT) in the next couple of months.
International coal prices have been pressured in part by the surge of shale gas production in the United States. The new energy source has driven coal down, making it cheaper to export, even to a giant producer like China.
Major producer Shenhua Energy has asked its mines to cut production costs by 5 percent due to price pressure and weak demand, according to the South China Morning Post. Coal stockpiles at mines and power plants are said to be high.
But while the coal and power results may raise suspicions about the economy, they are uncertain indicators, said Philip Andrews-Speed, principal fellow in the East Asia program at the National University of Singapore's Energy Studies Institute.
China's coal statistics are notoriously unreliable with provincial production figures often exceeding national totals by several hundred million tons per year.
Andrews-Speed noted that the reports also do not include China's coal imports, which rose 30 percent from a year earlier in the first quarter, Platts said, citing a trade source.
The softness in the power sector also raises the question of whether China has become more energy efficient as it trims wasteful production along with excessive growth.
"Either the economy is growing more slowly than 7.7 percent, or the structure of the economy has shifted to less energy-intensive activities," said Andrews-Speed.
Greater efficiency could explain much of the downturn in coal, as heavy and construction-related industries cut back to keep pace with slower economic growth.
"If this is the case, remember that this always happens in China when growth slows," Andrews-Speed said. "When growth picks up, energy intensity rises again."
Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong have withdrawn charges against some family members of blind dissident Chen Guangcheng, who won international fame for his escape from house arrest a year ago.
Police in Shandong's Yinan county had summoned Chen Guangcheng's brother, Chen Guangjun, and sister-in-law Ren Zongju, last week and told them they were suspected of "harboring" their son, Chen Kegui, who is currently in jail for causing injury to local officials in a raid in the aftermath of his uncle's flight from the town.
But when the family hired Beijing rights lawyers Li Fangping and Zhang Jianqin, the police apparently changed their minds, Chen Guangcheng's elder brother Chen Guangfu said.
"Li Fangping and Zhang Jianqin came down here with the intention of representing [Ren Zongzu]," Chen Guangfu said in an interview on Monday.
"After the lawyers got her, [the authorities] then decided they wouldn't pursue the case," he said.
The Chen family say the authorities have stepped up harassment of Chen Guangcheng's relatives ahead of last week's anniversary of his dramatic escape from 18 months of house arrest in Shandong's Dongshigu village that prompted a diplomatic standoff between Washington and Beijing.
On April 22 last year, Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught lawyer who exposed forced abortions under the country's one-child policy and defended the rights of ordinary people, outwitted his guards and made his way to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Chinese and American officials eventually struck a deal allowing him and his family to go to New York, where he is currently a visiting legal scholar.
Chen Guangfu said the withdrawal of the Ren's case came after he gave a number of interviews to foreign media about the new charges against her and her husband in recent days.
"From the moment I got their notification [about the case], I spoke out about a lot of things to the foreign media, and to friends online," Chen Guangfu said.
"Perhaps the reaction from overseas was quite strong," he said. "If this is the case, then they probably don't want this to get blown up, that's my feeling."
The other Chen brother, Chen Guangjun, said he too had been informed that the case against him was being dropped.
"I got a phone call," he said, adding that he was still ready to fight the case every step of the way. "They can do what they like," he said.
"I have already made preparations to take them to court."
Targeted by thugs
Since arriving in the U.S. in May last year, Chen Guangcheng has hit out against a persistent campaign of harassment carried out by Yinan county officials against relatives there.
Chen Guangfu said his family had continued to be targeted by government-backed thugs who had hung dead poultry and threw rocks into his family's private courtyard one night last week.
"They threw a lot of rocks again on Friday, and they damaged a few more of my saplings, snapping them off in the middle and throwing them on the ground," Chen said.
"I have reported this to the police eight times ... and they have come over, but the harassment is continuing. Everybody knows who is actually behind this," he said, in a reference to the local government.
No medical parole for Chen Kegui
Meanwhile, prison officials have rejected Chen Kegui's request for medical parole from his jail sentence after a bout of appendicitis.
Chen Kegui, Chen Guangfu's son, is serving a 39-month prison term after he tried to defend the family in an attack following Chen Guangcheng's flight from the village, and had applied for medical parole in recent days after developing complications from the illness.
"I got a call from Chen Kegui in jail, telling me that he got appendicitis ... and that he was on a drip," Chen Guangfu said. "I went to visit him the next day."
"I have been worried about him ever since, and I went the next day with [his wife] Liu Fang to the jail to make an application for medical parole," he said.
"But the prison authorities wouldn't accept it, because they said it was only granted in cases where the prison hospital couldn't treat the case themselves."
"They said they would transfer him according to his condition, and that the family needn't interfere," Chen added.
Chen Kegui was initially charged with "intentional homicide" which was later revised to "intentional injury," after officials burst into the family home on the night of April 26, 2012, beating them up.
The raid on the family came when local officials—who had hired hundreds of local people to keep watch on Chen Guangcheng and his family—discovered the blind activist was nowhere to be seen, following his nighttime, solo escape on April 22, 2012.
Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
Hundreds of local villagers opposed to a controversial Chinese-backed copper mine in northern Burma staged a protest march on Friday to demand the release of three demonstrators detained in clashes with police.
The three were detained Thursday after police shot and beat protesting farmers and activists in the first major violence surrounding the mine near Mount Letpadaung in northern Burma’s Sagaing division since the authorities brutally suppressed mass demonstration in November last year.
On Friday, activists said a group of 500 protesters set out on a march to the Nyaungpintha police station to call for the release of the trio, but were stopped by some 300 security forces, protesters said.
“They blocked our way with guns and shields,” local resident Zaw Naing told RFA’s Burmese Service.
“We were protesting to call for the release of the three detained activists who were arrested yesterday,” he said.
Security forces stand behind a sign warning protesters not to go any further, April 26, 2013. Photo credit: RFA. Protesters had been heading to the police station from Ton village near the copper mine and were stopped near Wethmay village.
The protesters also demanded an end to the mine and permission for farmers to return to work on lands they say were illegally confiscated the mining project—a joint venture between the Burmese military's Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL) and Wan Bao Company, a subsidiary of a Chinese arms manufacturer.
Thursday’s clashes broke out after security forces moved in to stop farmers from plowing fields in their bid to reclaim the land.
Police shot at and beat protesters, injuring ten, including at least one who suffered gunshot wounds, activists said.
Aung Soe, an activist from the Rangoon People’s Support Network, and two local residents, Soe Thu and Ko Sann, have been held since the clashes.
Monywa district deputy police chief Tin Tun said police had acted appropriately in Thursday’s crackdown, saying the farmers had gathered in an area that had been declared off-limits under Section 144, a provision that allows authorities emergency powers to control public order.
“I have warned them not to enter the forbidden area many times, but they didn’t listen to me and they started throwing stones at us and attacking us with sticks,” he told RFA.
“That’s why we cracked down on them according to the law.”
Police stand ready with shields and guns to stop the protesters, April 26, 2013. Photo credit: RFA. State media reported on Friday that villagers had attacked the police officers with petrol bombs and stones, injuring 15 and prompting police to fire rubber bullets.
"Villagers attacked throwing handmade fire (petrol) bombs... and throwing stones at the security forces," the state-run New Light of Myanmar reported, according to the Associated Press.
Ko Latt, an activist from the Politicial Prisoners’ Families Network, rejected claims that the protesters had used petrol bombs.
“We had no plan for any kind of action like that,” he told RFA.
“We are just fighting to try to get back our land,” he said.
The mine project drew national attention with a brutal crackdown on protesters opposed to it last November, when police used smoke bombs containing highly flammable phosphorous to disperse protest camps, injuring dozens of demonstrators, including monks.
The crackdown prompted a government probe into the future of the mine, and last month the inquiry panel recommended that the project be allowed to proceed, despite conceding it only brought "slight" benefits to the nation.
Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who headed the committee, traveled to the area to urge local farmers to drop their protest, but some farmers have continued to refuse compensation and demanded the land be returned.
Reported by Yadanar Oo and Nay Rein Kyaw for RFA’s Burmese Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.
Family members of slain Cambodian environmental activist Chut Wutty on Friday held a Buddhist ceremony to mark the one-year anniversary of his death, calling for the reopening of investigations into his murder and urging authorities to find his “true killer.”
The call came as members of Cambodia’s civil society held a memorial service for the activist in the country’s capital Phnom Penh, appealing to the government to end a “culture of impunity” they say prevented him from receiving justice.
During a ceremony in southern Cambodia's Koh Kong province, Chut Wutty’s brother-in-law, Yong Sokhorn, appealed to authorities to continue the probe into his murder although a private security official was convicted in relation to the case.
“The government must reconsider and reopen the case in order to find the true killer and determine who was behind the killing,” he said, speaking in front of the logging company in Mondul Seima district where Chut Wutty was gunned down last April while investigating illegal logging operations.
Court proceedings on Chut Wutty’s case—the highest-profile death of a Cambodian activist in years—ended in October last year after a court in Koh Kong convicted a logging company’s security chief for the killing of a military officer accused of murdering Chut Wutty.
Timber Green Logging Company security chief Rann Borath was sentenced to two years in prison for the “unintentional murder” of military officer In Rattana, who judges said had fatally shot Chut Wutty.
Chut Wutty’s son, Chhoeuy Odomraksmey, told RFA’s Khmer Service that the convicted security chief is only in prison as a “scapegoat” in the incident.
He said his family wanted “justice” and urged authorities to put “the real killer” behind bars.
“The court must summon all suspects, including military officers and soldiers who were stationed in the area, to be questioned,” said Chhoeuy Odomraksmey, who is now the director of his father's NGO, the Natural Resource Protection Group.
“We can’t allow [an unjust verdict] to stand,” he said.
Chhoeuy Odomraksmey also appealed to the people of Cambodia for assistance in funding his NGOs, saying that after his father’s death, forest crimes had increased.
Rights groups weigh in
Conflicting accounts of the deaths of Chut Wutty and In Rattana sparked accusations of a government cover-up of the murder.
The case was decried as unfair and unjust by rights groups which alleged the authorities had “intentionally” closed off examination into the activist’s death by placing the blame on a dead man.
The Geneva-based World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) on Friday also expressed “deep concern about the lack of significant progress in the investigation into his murder.”
“We strongly condemn the prevailing impunity in Mr. Chut Wutty’s murder, and we urge the Cambodian authorities to finally establish the full truth and bring to justice all those responsible,” said OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.
“The authorities of Cambodia should also ensure in all circumstances that defenders of economic, social and cultural rights are able to work without any fear of reprisals”, added FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen.
Phnom Penh memorial
Also on Friday, a group of nongovernmental organizations held a commemoration ceremony for Chut Wutty in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, calling for the investigation into his death to be reopened.
Cambodian Food and Service Workers' Federation president Sar Mora said the government must “end its culture of impunity” and “provide justice” to Chut Wutty and his family.
“Chut Wutty tried his best to protect the forest, but he was killed for his efforts. This is very unjust,” he said.
“We urge the government to provide Chut Wutty with justice and to encourage people to remember him.”
The government has so far not responded to appeals on the activist’s behalf.
On the day he was found murdered, Chut Wutty had been leading two journalists to see what he believed were illegal logging activities near a Chinese-built dam in Koh Kong.
The activist had also been involved in organizing communities around Cambodia to protect forests from land grabs and illegal logging and had campaigned against the government's granting of land concessions in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
Four months after Chut Wutty’s death, Hang Serei Oudom, a journalist who had exposed illegal logging and forest crimes involving local elites in Ratanakiri province, was found dead in the trunk of his car.
Authorities have arrested a military police officer and his wife as suspects in the case.
Reported by Uon Chhin for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.
The World Health Organization has launched an emergency strategy to combat drug-resistant strains of malaria in Southeast Asia, saying they pose a “global threat” to public health.
The new regional framework launched on World Malaria Day on Thursday is aimed at containing resistance to artemisinin—the frontline drug used to fight the mosquito-borne infectious disease—which has been identified in Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.
If the resistance were to spread from Southeast Asia to other parts of the world, particularly Africa, global progress on reducing the public health burden of the disease would be derailed, the WHO said.
“The consequences of widespread resistance to artemisinins would be catastrophic,” Robert Newman, director of WHO’s global malaria program, sad in a statement Wednesday.
“We must act now to protect Southeast Asia today and sub-Saharan Africa tomorrow,” he said.
The emergency strategy, which will cost about U.S. $400 million over the next three to four years, will work to remove poor-quality antimalarial drugs and other treatments that compromise the efficacy of artemisinin from circulation in affected countries.
The effort covers the four countries where artemisinin resistance has been found as well as neighboring Laos and southern China’s Yunnan and Guangxi provinces.
“This response will require substantial funding, a high level of political commitment, and strengthened regional and cross-border collaboration,” Newman said.
The WHO will also set up a regional hub to provide coordination and technical support in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, where the first cases of artemisinin-resistant malaria were confirmed in 2006.
Strains resistant to the drug, which is derived from a Chinese herb, first emerged in the Thailand-Cambodia border about nine years ago, the WHO has said.
While containment efforts there have been successful, new foci of resistance are being discovered in other areas of the Greater Mekong Subregion, the organization said this week.
In May, regional health representatives will gather in Manila to review country progress towards 2015 targets and discuss national treatment guidelines as part of the WHO’s Regional Action Plan for Malaria Control and Elimination in the Western Pacific.
Between 2000 and 2011, the Asia-Pacific region made overall progress in reducing its malaria burden, with a 73 percent decrease in malaria mortality rates, but there was a great variation between countries, according to the WHO.
Resistance does not prevent patients being cured thanks to partner drugs, but treatment typically takes a longer period and is more expensive.
Two community police personnel have been killed and three motor vehicles set on fire in China's troubled western region of Xinjiang's Hotan county, Uyghur sources said Friday, triggering a fresh security alert after the worst violence in four years earlier in the week.
The Uyghur Online website reported that investigations were under way following the fresh violence in Hotan's Yengi Awat (in Chinese, Yingawa) village on Thursday, two days after 21 people were killed in clashes in Siriqbuya (Selibuya) township in Kashgar prefecture.
The report did not provide details on the fresh incident in which it said two community security officers were killed and three vehicles burned.
"What we know is that this case is under investigation," the report said, adding that the motive behind the incident has not been identified. "The government did not comment on it."
According to Dilxat Raxit, Sweden-based spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, the Hotan deaths followed clashes between local Muslim Uyghurs, many of whom chafe under Beijing's rule, and local people hired to "maintain stability" and watch over the neighborhood.
"We are still trying to establish the actual cause of the clashes, but one issue is that China has recently stepped up security patrols in the Hotan area," Raxit said in an interview on Friday.
"They have sent large numbers of uniformed personnel there along the state highway from Kashgar, and you can see Chinese military vehicles everywhere, frequently," he said.
In contrast to the earlier clashes, China's official media appeared to remain silent on the new incident and the authorities were reluctant to comment.
An official who answered the phone at the Hotan police department said, "I don't know about this."
Calls to the Hotan district government offices and to the county government that oversees Yingawa village went unanaswered during office hours on Friday.
The reports emerged as Chinese President Xi Jinping called for stability in the ethnically-divided region after the Siriqbuya violence which Chinese officials and state media said had erupted after community officials on patrol were attacked by Uyghur "terrorists" armed with knives at a house.
Reinforcements were called, and in the ensuing shootout six of the suspects were killed, state media said. Others were killed either after being slashed by the suspects or burned to death when the house was torched, state media reports said.
In total, 16 Uyghurs, three Han Chinese, and two Mongolians were killed in the Siriqbuya violence—the worst since ethnic clashes between Uyghurs and Han Chinese rocked Xinjiang's regional capital of Urumqi in 2009, killing nearly 200.
Xi gave instructions on "how to handle the case, deal with the aftermath, and maintain stability in Xinjiang", the state-run Global Times said on its website, citing a local report, and without quoting Xi's remarks directly.
China on Friday accused the United States of "double standards" for not endorsing Beijing's account of the violence, after officials in Washington said the U.S. was "deeply concerned" by accounts of discrimination against Uyghurs and other Muslims in China.
China accused the US of a "double standard" for not condemning the attack despite being a victim of terror itself.
Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese service and Qiao Long for the Mandarin service. Translated by Luisetta Mudie and Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
The children of North Korea’s privileged class are shirking their military duties in exchange for bribes, and officials are looking the other way, according to defectors and sources within the country.
Those who hope to join the exclusive ruling Workers’ Party must first serve in the North Korean People’s Army, but, for a price, can get away with special treatment or are given cushy positions after donning fatigues, they said.
A source in North Korea’s South Hamgyong province, near the country’s border with China, told RFA’s Korean Service that the problem of the elite avoiding conscription had become “severe,” but so far has not led to any kind of official crackdown.
“Most parents in North Korea who have sons worry about them being drafted into the army, but that doesn’t apply to wealthy and powerful people,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Young men in nuclear-armed North Korea are required to join the country’s military and serve for a minimum of 10 years after graduating from high school. Young women who live in the capital Pyongyang must serve for two years after graduating, but those outside the city are not required to join.
But the regime under leader Kim Jong Un has faced severe food shortages exacerbated by international sanctions levied over recent rocket and nuclear tests, and feeding the impoverished nation’s estimated 1.2 million-member army has not been easy.
Lack of resource support coupled with grueling work assignments for members of the military has led the majority of influential families to seek a way out of service for their children, largely through bribery.
The source said that the sons and daughters of those who can afford to pay are either passed over by the military or, if they serve, are given lengthy furloughs from duty or discharged from service early.
“If you have enough money, there are 100,000 ways to avoid military duty, such as enrolling in a college for art, technical skills, or foreign languages. These students receive a ‘special education’ … that exempts them from service,” the source said.
He said that scions of the powerful can also dodge the draft by obtaining false documents from a hospital certifying an illness.
“People who get exemptions using these methods don’t care about becoming a member of the Workers’ Party,” the source said.
For those who hope to gain access to North Korea’s inner circle by joining the Workers’ Party, military service is mandatory, he said, “but they take an easy position through bribery and serve their duty at home, making up a fake illness or an excuse for special treatment.”
Draft dodging ‘on the rise’
A North Korean defector who gave his surname as Jang said “a lot of people” falsely report diseases in order to obtain a discharge from the military.
“In the past, people considered the act of dodging military service to be a dishonorable one, but recently this kind of thinking has changed. In fact, North Koreans now believe people who don’t try to get out of service are foolish,” he said.
“The bribery is not being addressed and draft dodging is on the rise among the privileged class.”
Sources said that without a free media in the country to report on the issue of draft dodging, the practice is unlikely to be eliminated. But they said that even if the problem was brought to light, North Koreans would be too afraid of being persecuted by the authorities to discuss it.
They said that in addition to the punishing working environment and substandard rations, young men and women of conscription age are seeking ways to skirt military service because the benefits of joining the Workers’ Party are no longer attractive.
North Korea’s military was founded 81 years ago Thursday and is older than the country itself. It began as an anti-Japanese militia and is now the heart of the nation’s “military first” policy.
North Korea, a country of about 25 million, has an estimated 7.7 million army reserves.
Kim Jong Un’s father and predecessor Kim Jong Il, who died in December 2011, raised the military’s profile during his 17 years in power.
The younger Kim this year instructed the Korean People’s Army to focus on a “nuclear arms force,” but it is believed to be operating on outdated materials and short supplies.
Reported by Joon Ho Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Goeun Yu. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.
Former Hong Kong second-in-command Anson Chan has launched a new pressure group to campaign for universal suffrage in the former British colony, amid growing signs that Beijing is unlikely to move forward with full, direct elections for the city's legislature and chief executive any time soon. Former chief secretary Chan, who still commands huge popular support among Hong Kong people, told a news conference that veteran politicians, including those once regarded as pro-Beijing, are worried about the territory's future under Chinese rule:
We are at a crucial point if we are to make universal suffrage a reality. The chief executive is still doing nothing about it, and what's more, he has refused to put a timetable for the political reform proposals before the citizens of Hong Kong. This means we have lost a lot of valuable time.
There are only a few months left in which to gather different opinions on how we should elect the the chief executive in 2017 and the Legislative Council elections in 2020, including hearing from the business community, various civic groups, and the voice of young people. [We will] gather these into a dossier and submit it to the government.
The chief executive [C.Y. Leung] has done nothing so far to promote political reforms, which is why we have set up this group to promote democracy, and to communicate with different sectors of society through different media. We want to be sure that we are getting a broad-based and fair consensus.
There are no preconceived notions. The bottom line is that we must make sure that our final dossier adheres to the core principles of fairness and universality. We would very much like to have a dialogue with the central government [in Beijing], but our biggest problem at the moment is that the central government doesn't trust that Hong Kong people have the wisdom to use their personal votes to elect a chief executive that is acceptable to Beijing.
Asked if she had the support of overseas governments, or if she had plans to run for chief executive herself, Chan said:
We have never accepted [financial] help from overseas, and we won't in the future. I will be offering some financial assistance, as will some people who care about this cause. I am doing this entirely for Hong Kong, not for myself.
Only through universal elections can we boost the level of public acceptance of the chief executive, and preserve our way of life and our core values, including the rule of law and protection for freedom and human rights.
If anyone has an opinion about me, the fairest thing to do would be to communicate with me more. Maybe some people are just reflecting the views of the central government.
Reported by Lin Jing for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
Claims from Chinese officials that the majority of buildings built after the devastating 2008 earthquake didn't collapse in Saturday's magnitude-7 temblor in Sichuan faced criticism from rights groups and quake survivors as the province was rocked by a smaller tremor on Friday.
Friday's 4.8 magnitude earthquake jolted Sichuan's Yibin city, injuring 61 people, just six days after a larger quake in Lushan county left more than 200 people dead or missing and around 12,000 injured.
Reconstruction work was beginning on Friday, meanwhile, in the wake of the Lushan quake, amid official claims that stricter building rules brought in after 2008 had proved effective.
Official media quoted Qiu Jian, chief planner of the provincial housing and urban-rural development department, as saying that most of the buildings that collapsed in the earthquake near Ya'an city were built by local people.
"As for the buildings constructed as part of post-quake programs following the  earthquake, none of them collapsed though these buildings bore some cracks or broken walls," Qiu told reporters.
He said a team of more than 400 experts had determined that post-2008 buildings were largely up to anti-quake standards.
A total of 186,300 rural buildings collapsed in the quake and about 430,000 homes were gravely damaged, provincial officials told a news conference on Thursday.
The claims were disputed by local residents and activists, however.
A resident of Sichuan's Tianquan county surnamed Yu said the situation on the ground didn't match up to this assessment.
"I have come across a lot of privately built houses, three-storey buildings built by the owners themselves, which didn't drop a single piece of concrete and which don't have any cracks in them at all," she said.
"They all came through the quake unscathed."
She said she doubted whether government-built buildings had performed as well.
Officials were closely questioned by reporters over the extent of collapsed buildings, in spite of tougher rules on earthquake-proofing brought in after the 2008 quake left 87,000 people dead or missing, thousands of them schoolchildren.
A resident of worst-hit Lushan county, Rui La, said everyone in her neighborhood had been made homeless after the quake had rendered their homes too dangerous to live in.
"All our houses were hit," she said. "No one's house came through it OK, not even the ones built last year, or those that were just finished. They all cracked."
She said a school in the county that had been built to tougher specifications since the 2008 disaster was now unsafe for use.
"It was built after 2008," Rui said. "Now they will have to build huts so the kids can go back to class."
The U.S.-based Chinese-language news site Boxun said that the newly built No. 3 Elementary School in Ya'an city, which was supposed to withstand a magnitude-8 earthquake, had sustained major damage, with fallen walls and broken tiles everywhere, and wasn't suitable for use.
Meanwhile, the New Tang Dynasty website said large numbers of armed police had moved into the quake-hit area, and were using up precious resources that could be used to prioritize rescue work.
It quoted local residents as saying that there were around 10,000 troops and armed police in the region by Thursday, suggesting that the authorities feared popular unrest amid widespread anger over the rescue operation and the level of damage to buildings.
Only three of the 359 schools in Ya'an had escaped damage in the earthquake, and among the worst hit was the Lushan High School, which was built by Hong Kong-donated relief funds in the wake of the 2008 quake to withstand a magnitude-8 tremor, it said.
Huang Yuming, a resident of Lushan's Taiping township, said more armed police—who are generally used instead of troops to maintain public order—had been arriving the area every day.
"There are armed police here, yes," Huang said. "Every day they come. There are more than 20 in our [immediate area] alone."
'Huge damage' to newly built buildings
Sichuan-based Huang Qi, who runs the Tianwang website and rights group, said relief workers sent to the quake-hit region by his group had reported problems with large numbers of reconstructed buildings after the quake.
"Our sources from the disaster area are telling us that they have visited a lot of public buildings like schools and hospitals in the past couple of days, and unfortunately even those that were newly built have suffered huge damage," Huang said.
"According to an initial investigation [by the government], most are not currently being used," he said.
Sichuan urban construction official Si Qijian defended the performance of the newer buildings, however.
"It's normal for there to be cracks or damage to buildings after such a big earthquake," he said.
"The most important thing is that they should sustain no damage in a smaller earthquake, be reparable after a medium earthquake, and not fall down in a large tremor."
Online commentators said they wanted to hear the government's definition of "collapsed."
Shenzhen Commercial Times reporter Huang Xiping posted via the Twitter-like service Sina Weibo: "The Chinese language is very broad in scope! Who can tell me what 'not a single building collapsed' actually means?"
"Does it count if half of it collapsed? How about nine-tenths? Or, so that there's only a brick and a tile left standing?"
"They are using these ridiculous notions to try to cover up the truth of official corruption that lies behind these tofu buildings," Huang wrote.
Reported by Xin Lin and Shi Shan for RFA's Mandarin Service and by Fung Yat-yiu for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
For strategic or other reasons, the United States may have been giving special treatment to major powers China, Russia and India when evaluating their human trafficking record in a bid to avoid imposing sanctions on them, according to some American lawmakers and former government officials.
In a clash between priorities of national security and foreign policy on the one hand and human rights on the other, the U.S. authorities have let even Uzbekistan off the hook apparently because of the repressive nation's cooperation in getting supplies to American troops in Afghanistan, they said.
As Washington assesses steps taken by governments across the world in combating human trafficking, allies Iraq and Thailand too have seen their potential ranking downgrades delayed while Vietnam has won a premature ranking boost allegedly due to strategic considerations, the legislators and ex-state officials charged at a U.S. congressional hearing last week.
The U.S. State Department gives rankings—from Tier 1 to Tier 3—to more than 180 countries every year in its annual report on the state of human trafficking across the world, acclaimed as the international gold standard for anti-trafficking accountability.
Tier 1 countries are judged as fully meeting the minimum standards established by the law. Tier 2 nations may not fully comply with minimum standards, such as protection, prosecution, and prevention, but are seen to be making a significant effort to comply.
Those listed on the worst Tier 3 ranking are open to sanction by the U.S. government.
But much of the ranking controversy revolves around the second-lowest tier—the Tier 2 Watch List created a decade ago in a bid to encourage countries that take anti-trafficking steps late in the evaluation year, especially those countries that took last-minute measures to avoid a Tier 3 designation.
Some countries have exploited a loophole by, in the words of a lawmaker, "gaming the system"—making it a habit of last minute efforts and failing to follow through year after year.
So, in 2008, a law was created for an “automatic downgrade” for any country that had been on the Tier 2 Watch List for two years but had not taken significant enough anti-trafficking measures to move to Tier 2.
The U.S. President can however waive a Tier 3 downgrade for two additional years if there is “credible evidence” that the country has a written and sufficiently resourced plan to meet the minimum standards.
It has now been four years since the two-year limit, or 4 years-with-a-waiver limit, was instituted and all eyes are on the State Department's 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) to be released in June with the new rankings.
Six nations face a potential automatic downgrade from Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 3 with possible sanctions—China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Republic of Congo, Iraq, and Azerbaijan.
They have now had at least four full years of warning that they would face downgrade to Tier 3 if they did not make significant efforts to prosecute traffickers, protect victims, and prevent trafficking.
"The 'parking lot' is now closed: The [U.S.] Administration can no longer avoid telling hard truths about politically sensitive countries by keeping them indefinitely on the 'Watch List,' which was not part of the original, three-tier structure established [under the law]," Ed Royce, Chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, told the hearing.
"If time-limited countries have not made significant efforts to comply with minimum trafficking standards, they must be downgraded to Tier 3 status," he said.
Another House lawmaker, Chris Smith, said that if the six countries "have once again failed to make significant efforts to meet the minimum standards, the State Department must downgrade them or risk undermining the credibility and demonstrated power of the TIP Report."
He said he was particularly concerned about China's human trafficking record, saying it has been on the Tier 2 Watch List for eight consecutive years but not been making significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards of the law.
It also continues to forcibly repatriate North Korean trafficking victims who face severe punishment, including execution, upon return to their country, said Smith, a rights crusading lawmaker.
Mark Lagon, a former head of the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons which publishes the annual global trafficking report, acknowledged that "at times" the department "pulls punches" with some countries.
He cited India, "the demographic epicenter of human trafficking in the world," saying the State Department upgraded it from Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 2 in the June 2011 report in a move that "may have had even more to do with strategic relations with India than the merits."
Lagon, who was the head of the anti-trafficking office from 2007 to 2009, also said that he himself had "learned of a Tier 3 ranking being overturned by the very highest level of State Department leadership just days before" he was confirmed to his post.
The State Department declined to comment on the issues raised at the congressional hearing ahead of the publication of the annual human trafficking report in June.
"We can't comment on this year's country assessments before the 2013 TIP Report is released this summer," Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large at the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, said in response to a query from RFA.
"State Department staff are working with a wide range of partners to ensure this year's narratives are thorough and take into account all available information," CdeBaca said.
Lagon also cited battles between diplomats and anti-trafficking experts within the State Department over the issue of labor camps in China.
A "sizeable portion" of the world's 2.2 million victims of forced labor "compelled by governments, militaries and armed groups" is represented by those political prisoners in the laogai, or “reeducation through labor” prison camps, in China, according to published data.
"Those responsible for East Asia in the State Department actually temporarily fought with the TIP Office when I was its Director as to whether the laogai—documented publicly in the annual Department Human Rights Report —would be considered trafficking victims, as they are," he said.
Lagon, now an international affairs professor at Washington's Georgetown University, was particularly vocal about Uzbekistan's human trafficking record, describing it as "the most appalling case in the neighborhood of the former Soviet Union."
"Let me be plain: There are loud voices within the U.S. Government who say the U.S. must downplay any distraction which might upset Uzbekistan’s cooperation in the Northern Distribution Network getting supplies to troops in Afghanistan," he said.
"China, Russia, and India may predictably avoid downgrades as great powers. But if as unreconstructed and unrepentant an autocracy as Uzbekistan is let off the hook because of a supply mechanism for troops being winnowed from Afghanistan anyway, it would be a travesty."
David Abramowitz, a former State Department official and congressional staffer, said the “automatic downgrade” provision for the trafficking rankings "was viewed with some alarm" among many in the State Department and a number of important countries, such as India, Thailand, China, and Russia—perennial members of the Tier 2 Watch List.
Abramowitz, now vice-president of Humanity United, a California-based philanthropic organization, warned of "the risk that national secuerity and foreign policy perspectives will trump the human rights considerations that should always be at the forefront of this issue."
Farmers and activists protesting a Chinese-backed copper mine in northern Burma were shot at and beaten by police on Thursday in a new crackdown on protests against the project since a brutally suppressed demonstration last year.
The clashes broke out after security forces moved in to stop farmers from plowing fields in land that has been seized by Wan Bao Company, which runs the copper mine near Mount Letpadaung in northern Burma’s Sagaing division.
At least ten protesting farmers were injured, some of them with gunshot wounds, and three others were arrested, protesters said.
“While we were plowing our lands to plant crops, the security forces came in and arrested us,” local farmer Zaw Naing told RFA’s Burmese Service.
“They cracked down on us violently,” he said, adding that one villager received two gunshot wounds and taken to the hospital in Monywa.
The Irrawaddy online journal quoted a doctor as saying "some of the injured had received gunshot wounds."
The clashes were an echo of a clampdown on protest camps at the mine site last November, when police used smoke bombs to disperse the crowd, injuring dozens of demonstrators, including monks, and triggering a national outcry.
The crackdown prompted a government probe into the future of the mine, which is a joint venture between the Burmese military's Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL) and Wan Bao Company, the a subsidiary of a Chinese arms manufacturer.
Last month, a probe panel recommended that the mine be allowed to proceed as it serves the economic benefit of the nation. Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who headed the committee, traveled to the area to urge local farmers to drop their protest.
But hundreds of farmers have continued to refuse compensation and demand the return of land which they say was illegally confiscated for the mine.
Some of them began plowing fields near the mine earlier this week in preparation to plant ahead of the start of the rainy season, before police arrived Thursday morning.
Ko Latt, an activist from the Rangoon People’s Support Network that has been working with local farmers to protest the mine, said the security forces came with “no warning.”
In the ensuing clashes, he said police had used what he believed to be explosives, which had caused bushes and trees to catch fire.
Zaw Naing said the clashes ended when farmers scattered out of fear that security forces would use bombs to make them leave.
“We heard a police officer shout to his forces, ‘Use bombs to crack down on them.’ We didn’t have any weapons, so we went home,” he said.
The three arrested were two local residents from Setae village and activist Aung Soe from the Rangoon People’s Support Network, Zaw Naing said.
State television reported the skirmish, saying police used rubber bullets to disperse 200 farmers, according to the Associated Press. The report said 15 police were also injured.
The chief of the local Sarlingyi township police station and the Monywa district administrator refused to comment on Thursday’s clashes when contacted by RFA, referring reporters to Wan Bao’s security unit.
'Problem of daily survival'
The 88 Generation Students’ Group, a prominent Burmese civil society organization based in Rangoon, denounced Thursday’s crackdown as “harsh” and said the local farmers face a struggle for their livelihood when they cannot farm land there.
“If the farmers can’t do anything in the area, they face a problem of survival, and they cannot wait until the end of the planting season,” a statement by the group on Thursday said.
“The authorities need to address the farmers’ problem of their daily survival,” it said.
It added that the group was concerned authorities there were “responding harshly whenever a problem happens.”
Reported by Nay Rein Kyaw, Kyaw Zaw Lwin, and Yadanar Oo for RFA’s Burmese Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.
An exiled rights group has called on the U.S. envoy to China to raise human rights violations against the mostly Muslim Uyghur minority with the government in Beijing, two days after 21 people were killed in the worst episode of violence in the restive Xinjiang region in nearly four years.
U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke was visiting Xinjiang with a trade delegation when the clashes took place Tuesday in Maralbeshi (in Chinese, Bachu) county in Kashgar prefecture and the U.S. State Department has called on Beijing to conduct a “thorough and transparent investigation of this incident.”
Chinese officials and state media said the violence erupted after community officials on patrol were attacked by Uyghur "terrorists" armed with knives at a house in Siriqbuya (in Chinese, Selibuya) township.
Reinforcements were called and in the ensuing shootout, six of the suspects were killed, state media said. Others were killed either after being slashed by the suspects or burned to death when the house was torched, state media reports said.
In total, 16 Uyghurs, three Han Chinese, and two Mongolians were killed in the clashes—the worst since ethnic violence between Uyghurs and Han Chinese rocked Xinjiang's regional capital of Urumqi in 2009, killing nearly 200.
The Washington-based Uyghur American Association (UAA) warned that Chinese media reporting on the incident should be “viewed with extreme caution” given a lack of details and independent verification, and urged the international community to dismiss allegations of a Uyghur terror plot.
The UAA called on Locke to raise any violations against the Uyghurs with the Chinese authorities and urge Beijing to find a “lasting political solution” to their grievances.
“It is vitally important for Ambassador Locke to remind the Chinese authorities that the constant attack on Uyghur identity, language, culture, religion and ethnicity as well as equating Uyghurs’ legitimate grievances with terrorism, separatism and extremism will not bring long-term peace and stability to the region,” said UAA President Alim Seytoff in a statement.
The UAA said that since the unrest of 2009, China had intensified its repression of the Uyghur people through “heavy-handed security measures” and the “arbitrary use of lethal force.”
It said that in addition to deploying anti-terror forces into Xinjiang following the clashes, authorities had also created “neighborhood watch offices” in areas of the region populated by Uyghurs, such as Kashgar and Hotan, to “spy” on the ethnic group.
“These offices were tasked to report any Uyghur out of town or any kind of Uyghur gathering even in the privacy of their house to police or security personnel patrolling the area,” the group said.
“Subsequently, it results in an immediate unlawful house search by neighborhood watch officers and sometimes arbitrary use of lethal force by security personnel for any kind of resistance, causing the deaths of many people, with authorities usually labeling the Uyghurs involved as ‘terrorists’.”
New York-based DWnews.com quoted anonymous official sources as saying that Tuesday’s incident triggered off after three community officials discovered a “terrorist” group watching a “terrorist” video during a house-to-house search.
It said that the officials, who had also found a cache of knives, reported the matter to police who soon after arrived on the scene with the police station chief and a group of officers.
“When they arrived at scene, they found the three officials killed. The police chief was the only one armed with a gun among his team,” the Chinese-language report said, without providing the police chief’s name.
“When his six rounds of ammunition were exhausted, the terror group used a 1.2-meter (4-foot) knife to kill him and the other policemen.”
DWnews said the group “burned down the house with the bodies in it,” adding that among the community officials killed in the clash was ethnic Mongolian deputy town mayor Sung Chao.
The Global Times, an official Chinese media organization, reported that the remaining police officers had taken eight men into custody during the incident.
It said the “terrorists may have set a trap” in luring police officers and to their home before setting upon them with knives, quoting local officials.
Chinese authorities often accuse Uyghurs of terrorist activities, but experts familiar with the region have said Beijing exaggerates a terrorism threat to take the heat off domestic policies that cause unrest.
The Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) maintained that the clash was sparked by the shooting and killing of a young Uyghur by Chinese security forces that fired into a crowd angered over the illegal search of homes.
And an eyewitness told RFA's Uyghur Service on Wednesday that when a Uyghur woman had refused to lift her veil during a search of area homes, a neighborhood watch officer forced her to do so, sparking the conflict.
The United States on Wednesday urged China to carry out a full probe of the violence and "take steps to reduce tensions and promote long-term stability in Xinjiang."
"We urge the Chinese authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation of this incident and to provide all Chinese citizens—including Uyghurs—the due-process protections to which they're entitled," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters.
But China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Thursday said the U.S. was using a “double standard” for not outright condemning the attack while also recently suffering from an act of terror, and said Washington should “reflect on its own problems.”
Three people were killed and more than 260 injured when two explosions occurred at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15. Two young men, one of which was killed in a shootout with police, are suspected of having carried out the attack.
“We are firmly opposed to the U.S. confusing black and white, right and wrong. Not only do they not condemn violent terrorist attacks, but they also make casual and irresponsible accusations against China’s ethnic policy,” she said.
“We hope the U.S. can respect the most basic facts and stop the wrong practice of using double standards. They should look at themselves in the mirror more often to see all the problems in their own country instead of making casual accusations against other countries.”
In Xinjiang, rights groups say that the Chinese authorities are indiscriminately jailing Uyghurs in the name of fighting terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism, and are intensifying the influx of Han Chinese in the region.
Uyghurs say they have long suffered ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls, and continued poverty and joblessness.
Reported by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Dolkun Kamberi. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.
Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Anhui have refused to release a journalist who shot video of a campaign to allow the daughter of a local dissident to attend school, his relatives said on Thursday.
Sun Lin, a reporter for the overseas-based Chinese-language news site Boxun, was initially sentenced to 10 days' administrative detention, after the couple took part in protests in support of dissident Zhang Lin and his 10-year-old daughter Zhang Anni, who was taken by police from a school in the provincial capital Hefei in February and barred from returning.
Sun's wife Gao Xiaojun said the authorities had since declined to release her husband, however.
"They said he won't get out," Gao said in an interview on Thursday. "They will probably change his status to criminal detention on April 30."
She said Sun's lawyer had visited him in detention for two hours on Saturday.
"His reporting has been having an impact for many years now," Gao said. "So he is probably going to be suppressed by the authorities."
"I thought things were looking dangerous, so I hired him two lawyers ... in case one of them is subjected to [official] controls."
Sun's detention came after more than 30 supporters of veteran pro-democracy activist Zhang gathered in the provincial capital Hefei earlier this month to protest the Feb. 27 removal of the dissident's daughter Anni from the Hupo Elementary School in the city by police.
Anni has since been denied permission to return by the school's principal, and the family has now returned to their hometown of Bengbu, a smaller city in Anhui, and enrolled her in a local school there.
Gao said the police had already set up a committee to transfer Sun's case to criminal detention and that things didn't look good for her husband.
"As soon as we got inside the detention center, they sent someone to meet us and show us around, including two state security police...who were trailing around in front of us and behind us," she said.
"After the meeting with the lawyers, when I visited [Sun], they were still there, coming and going."
Anni's case sparked an outcry among Chinese netizens, with her story and photograph trending regularly on the popular microblogging site Sina Weibo in recent weeks.
On April 8, activists from around the country converged on Hefei in a bid to escort Anni to school.
Some were set upon by unidentified men near the school gates, while others have volunteered to teach Anni and staged relay hunger strikes in support of the family.
'Blowing up' the campaign
One of the lawyers, Guangzhou rights attorney Sui Muqing, said Sun had been beaten by police while in detention.
"They beat him up after they detained him, and they didn't specify under what charges he was being held," Sui said. "All he got was a so-called verbal communication that he was being held under administrative detention."
"They never sent out a notice of detention to his family, so the way the police handled this case was clearly illegal," he said.
Sui said police had accused Sun of "blowing up" the campaign in support of Zhang Lin and Anni.
"They asked him why he took part in blowing up the Anni affair, saying he was suspected of transmission of information, and threatening him by saying it depended on his attitude."
"They said his [video reports] had created a bad impression overseas, but Sun Lin refused to sign the form when they detained him," Sui added.
Zhang home under surveillance
Back in Bengbu, Zhang Lin, 50, said last week that his home had been under tight police surveillance since the detentions of his fellow activists.
China's nationwide "stability maintenance" system, which now costs more than the People's Liberation Army, tracks the movements and activities of anyone engaged in political or rights activism across the country.
Under this system, activists and outspoken intellectuals are routinely put under house arrest or other forms of surveillance at politically sensitive times.
Zhang, a veteran of the 1989 pro-democracy movement in Anhui, has served more than 13 years in prison on subversion charges for his political activities since the banning of the opposition China Democracy Party (CDP) in 1998.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
Relatives of blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who is currently a visiting legal scholar in New York, say the authorities have stepped up harassment of the family ahead of Friday's anniversary of his daring escape from house arrest.
"They have been harassing us ever since the night of [April] 18th," Chen Guangcheng's brother, Chen Guangfu, said from the family's hometown in the eastern province of Shandong.
He said government-sponsored thugs had hung dead chickens and ducks in his family's private courtyard on the night of April 18, and put up posters defaming and threatening him and his family around the village.
"At 1:00 a.m. on [April] 21, they threw some stones into our courtyard, smashing some glass and roof tiles," Chen said.
"On the 22nd, when my mother got up at 7:00 a.m. to go and buy some stuff, she found someone had distributed leaflets on the streets [about us]."
"They threw rocks into our house again in the early hours of [Wednesday] ... and a beer bottle in our cooking pot," Chen said.
The posters were printed, and described Chen Guangfu and Chen Guangcheng as "hoodlums and traitors to the Han people," he said.
"They said we had links with foreign devils, Taiwan independence forces, and were the sons of the United States, and traitors to our own land."
He said he believed the posters were an attempt to mark the anniversary of Chen Guangcheng's daring escape after his family was subjected to more than 18 months of house arrest and beatings, at the end of April last year.
Sending a warning
Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught lawyer who exposed forced abortions under the country's one-child policy and defended the rights of ordinary people, has been living and studying law in New York since arriving in the U.S. in May 2012, after a diplomatic standoff between Washington and Beijing.
After 18 months of house arrest in Shandong's Dongshigu village, Chen Guangcheng outwitted his guards and made his way to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, where Chinese and American officials eventually struck a deal allowing him and his family to go to New York to study.
"Maybe they want to send us a warning, not to go speaking out about things," Chen Guangfu said. "My feeling is that this is an organized campaign, and they are probably secure in the knowledge that they have [government] backing."
He said that the harassment was likely linked to the fact that Chen Guangcheng had supplied a list of more than 40 names of officials in his home county of Yinan he said were responsible for human rights abuses to the U.S. Congress, and his subsequent visit to Taiwan.
"This is affecting us economically, and the psychological pressure is huge as well," he said.
Also on Wednesday, Chen Guangfu's wife, Ren Zongju, was summoned by the authorities from nearby Linyi city and accused of "harboring" the couple's son, Chen Kegui, who was jailed last year after he tried to defend the family against an assault by security personnel.
"This is the first time I have been called in for questioning by police since last year," Ren said in an interview on Wednesday. "[Last year], they took me to a detention center and didn't take me home until four days later."
Punishing the family
According to Catherine Baber, Asia-Pacific Program Director at Amnesty International, the latest detention of Ren appeared to be a punishment aimed at the whole family.
"This new detention—a full year after Chen Guangcheng’s escape—seems aimed at punishing him and his family for his continued outspoken criticism of the Chinese government," Baber said in a statement on the group's website.
Another Chen brother recently said that his car had been damaged and his tires repeatedly slashed, Amnesty said.
"In China we’ve seen a pattern of the authorities singling out family members and associates of prominent government critics and human rights defenders for intimidation—this must be stopped immediately," Baber said.
The family's lawyer, Ding Xikui, said the harassment of the Chen family was illegal.
"I hope they will report the case to the authorities, and we will see how they deal with it," he said.
Earlier this month, Chen Guangcheng said his nephew, who is serving a 39-month jail term for injuring officials, has been subjected to “torture,” including sleep and food deprivation, while under detention.
Chen Kegui said local officials entered his home and attacked him and his family in anger, shortly after his uncle’s blind, solo escape under cover of darkness.
Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese service, and by Xin Yu for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.