Archive for the ‘dissidents’ Category

Myanmar: Long sentences for democracy advocates

November 11, 2008

Courts in military-ruled Myanmar delivered a devastating blow Tuesday to the nation’s pro-democracy movement, sentencing two dozen activists to harsh prison terms that will keep them behind bars long past a 2010 election.

Associated Press

Fourteen members of the Generation 88 Students group were sentenced to prison terms of 65 years each, and a labor activist, Su Su Nway, was sentenced to 12 1/2 years. Ten people allied with Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy got jail terms of eight to 24 years.

Many of the activists were involved in protests last year that led to huge pro-democracy demonstrations that the army put down by force. According to U.N. estimates, at least 31 people were killed and thousands of demonstrators were detained. Many fled the country or went underground.

Most of the sentences were handed down in closed-court sessions. The lengths of the terms suggest the junta will pay little heed to calls from the U.N. and many Western nations to make its self-styled transition to democracy more fair and inclusive.

Amnesty International said the court actions were “a powerful reminder that Myanmar’s military government is ignoring calls by the international community to clean up its human rights record.”

“This sentencing sends a clear signal that it will not tolerate views contrary to its own,” the group said in a statement.

Amnesty and other international human rights groups say the junta holds more than 2,100 political prisoners, up sharply from nearly 1,200 in June 2007 — before the pro-democracy demonstrations.

The prisoners include Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest — as she has been on and off since 1989.

The European Union said Monday that the multiparty elections scheduled for 2010 will be seen as illegitimate unless the junta frees all political prisoners. Suu Kyi’s party won the most seats in a 1990 election, but the military refused to let it take power.

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Museum to showcase China’s forced labour camps

November 9, 2008

After languishing 19 years in China‘s forced labour camps, a Chinese dissident has set up a museum in Washington to highlight the “horrors and atrocities” in these secret detention facilities.

Harry Wu, who labored in 12 different camps in China from 1960 to 1979, set up the museum in memory of the millions who he said perished within the camps, known as “Laogai” or reform-through-labor camps.

by P. Parameswaran, AFP

Wu hopes it “will preserve the memory of the Laogai’s many victims, including the millions who perished within the labor camps, and serve to educate the public about the horrors and atrocities committed by China’s communist regime,” a statement from his Laogai Research Foundation said.

A 1995 photo shows US human rights activist Harry Wu (C), standing ...
A 1995 photo shows US human rights activist Harry Wu (C), standing between two Chinese policeman taken from a video offered for sale to foreign news agencies. After languishing 19 years in China’s forced labour camps, a Chinese dissident has set up a museum in Washington to highlight the “horrors and atrocities” in these secret detention facilities.(AFP/File)

“To this end, the museum will not only introduce the history and structure of the Laogai, but will also tell the personal stories of many of its prisoners,” it said.

Materials on display at the museum, to open to the public Thursday, include photographs, government documents and prisoner uniforms from Wu’s own archives or donated by other Laogai survivors.

Wu set up his foundation in 1992, seven years after he fled to the United States where he obtained American citizenship.

The Laogai camps were establishd under China’s former leader Mao Zedong after the communists came to power in China in 1949. They included both common criminals and political prisoners.

About 40-50 million people have been imprisoned in the Laogai, many of them prisoners of conscience, Wu’s group said.

In 1990, China abandoned the term Laogai and labelled the detention facilities as “prisons” instead but Wu maintained that evidence gathered by his foundation suggested that forced labor was “as much a part of its prison system today as it ever was.”

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Problems creep out past official front in China

March 20, 2008
BEIJING — Last month, Olympic organizers were showing off a new basketball arena and denied that any residents were forcibly evicted to build the many sites for the Summer Games. But the Olympic Media Village sits where Li Yukui and his neighbors had to leave their homes.

Olympic officials promised to clean Beijing’s severe air pollution, but an Ethiopian runner said last week that he won’t run the marathon because breathing the air could harm his health.

And the neighborhood volunteers touted for learning English to give directions to visitors instead spend their time monitoring residents and even confronted one pregnant woman about whether she was violating China’s one-child policy.

Five months before the Olympics, China is discovering the difficult line between promotion of its many successes and concealment of deep problems that dog the communist nation.

China’s crackdown on pro-independence protests in Tibet is just one front of this struggle. The world’s most populous nation wants to present a united image of harmony and prosperity. But the ruling Communist Party, which bristles at outside criticism, sometimes contains dissidents and ignores human rights complaints.

Riot police take a rest on a street in Tongren, in China's Qinghai ...
Riot police take a rest on a street in Tongren, in China’s Qinghai province, March 17, 2008.(Kyodo/Reuters)

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U.S. to keep pressing Vietnam on jailed activists

March 13, 2008

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States will use human rights talks with Vietnam in May to press for the release of political prisoners, including a U.S. citizen jailed last year, the top U.S. diplomat for Asia said on Wednesday.

A woman walks past a branch of Vietnam's Investment and ...
 woman walks past a branch of Vietnam’s Investment and Development Bank in Hanoi March 11, 2008.

U.S . Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill, who visited Hanoi this month, told a U.S. Senate hearing he had raised the jailings of Nguyen Quoc Quan of California and other democracy activists with Vietnamese authorities and would keep on pressing these and other cases.

“We will continue to push vigorously for a greater expansion of the civil and political rights of all Vietnamese citizens and for the release of all political prisoners,” Hill said in a written statement to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Hill testified before the Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs a day after the State Department’s annual report….

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Jailed Reporter Accused As Spy By China Is Released

February 5, 2008

HONG KONG – A Hong Kong journalist charged with spying for Taiwan has been released from a prison in mainland China where he was detained for almost two years, the government said Tuesday.

Officials in China notified Hong Kong authorities Tuesday that Ching Cheong had been released on parole, said a Hong Kong government spokesman who declined to be named, citing policy.

Ching, a Hong Kong-based correspondent for Singapore‘s The Straits Times newspaper, was sentenced to five years’ jail in August 2006 on charges of spying for Taiwan. He was detained during a visit to the southern city of Guangzhou in April 2005 and sentenced in a one-day trial 16 months later. A Chinese court rejected his appeal in November 2006.

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Ching Cheong’s release on parole coincided with the jailing of a dissident writer for four years on a charge of inciting subversion over essays he wrote critical of the government.

Dissident writer Lu Gengsong’s jailing also sparked criticism of China’s communist government.

“The pattern of sentencing against dissidents and human rights defenders under politically motivated subversion charges in recent months indicates a deterioration of the overall human rights situation rather than the improvement that the world is expecting from an Olympic host,” Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch said.

The International PEN, which champions writers’ freedoms, urged President Hu Jintao to free 40 jailed dissident writers, including Ching, ahead of the Summer Olympics.

In an open letter to Hu, the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association said Ching suffered from arrhythmia and recently learned that his health had deteriorated in jail.

A woman surfs the internet on a laptop computer at a wireless ...
A woman surfs the internet on a laptop computer at a wireless cafe in Beijing in January. China on Tuesday sentenced writer and cyber-dissident Lu Gengsong to four years in jail for “inciting subversion of state power,” his lawyer said.(AFP/File/Frederic J Brown)

Vietnam releases rights activist

February 1, 2008

January 31, 2008

NEW YORK, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Vietnam has released imprisoned dissident writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, but continues to hold other dissidents under house arrest, Human Rights Watch said.
Tran Khai Thanh Thuy 
Thuy was arrested April 21, 2007, on charges of “causing public disorder.” She was released Thursday following an unpublicized trial in Hanoi, at which she was sentenced to nine months and 10 days, or time served, the rights organization said in a release.

Thuy, 47, was the 2007 winner of the Hellman/Hammett prize for persecuted writers. She was one of an estimated 40 activists who have been imprisoned or held under house arrest during the past 18 months in Vietnam, Human Rights Watch said.

Those being held include human rights lawyers, opposition party members, underground publishers, religious activists, Internet dissidents and labor union leaders.

“Like the dozens of other peaceful dissidents who have been jailed, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy should never have been arrested in the first place,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “The Vietnamese government should stop locking people up simply for expressing their views.”

At Beijing’s Olympics, Something President Bush Can Do

January 7, 2008

President Bush has accepted an invitation to attend the Summer Games. An aide explained that the president will attend as a sports fan, but the president of the United States is never just a spectator. Bush’s presence cannot help but lend the prestige of his office to the Chinese government, which hopes to use the Olympics to improve its international standing.

There is, however, something Bush can do to make his visit worthwhile as well as more consistent with his “freedom agenda”: meet with dissidents in Beijing.

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Vietnam’s Internet decade brings hopes, problems for dissidents

December 3, 2007

By Aude Genet

HANOI (AFP) – Ten years after the Internet went live in Vietnam, the number of Web users in the country has soared, with dissidents using it as a podium and others surfing it to learn about the outside world.

Vietnam’s government says around 18 million people, or more than 20 percent of the population, are using the Internet, numbers that thrust the country into the world top 20 in terms of online penetration.

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China’s Hu Jintao: State Of China Address Opens Party Congress

October 15, 2007

By Chris Buckley and Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) – China‘s Communist Party must stay firmly in charge as the nation embraces economic and social change, President Hu Jintao said on Monday in an agenda-setting speech vowing tightly controlled political reform.

President Hu spells out plan for Taiwan, economic growth, environment, military overhaul.
Chinese Communist Party leader Hu Jintao, left, shakes hands with former President and Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin after Hu’s speech at the opening of the 17th Communist Party Congress in Beijing.

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Junta holds rally and detains activists in Burma, Myanmar

October 13, 2007

YANGON, Myanmar: (AP) The junta in Myanmar junta held a massive government-orchestrated rally Saturday in Yangon, as security forces kept cracking down on pro-democracy protesters by rounding up some of the country’s most prominent political activists.

The rights group Amnesty International said four activists, who led pro-democracy marches several weeks ago and then went into hiding, were arrested early Saturday in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city.

Amnesty said it did not have details of the arrests, which could not be independently confirmed.

The rights group said it feared for their safety.

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