January - February 1999


January 1, 1999 - Government increases control over transport of publications
In an effort to further control the publishing industry, regulations taking effect January 1 require government permission to transport all publications and other printed matter. Postal bureaus and air and railway departments were informed of the new rules and ordered not to transport any publications unless permission had been obtained in advance. Shippers of printed material are required to apply for "transport permits" to be issued by local cultural bureaus. No permits will be issued if publications are illegal or involve political issues.

January 2, 1999 - New party in formation
In a statement sent to foreign media in Beijing, a group of dissidents announced their intention to form the China Labor Party. "Our party's responsibility," the letter said, "will be to monitor the Chinese Communist Party and represent the working class." The group said it would attempt to register with the Ministry of Civil Affairs in Beijing on April 19. It said it seeks to weed out corruption, arrest the loss of state assets, and push the government to implement an urban minimum living allowance.

January 4, 1999 - Farmers detained for high tax, rigged elections protest
After officials refused to hear complaints about excessive taxes and rigged elections, some 100 peasants in Guoyuna, Jiangsu province ignored warnings not to demonstrate and moved to Xuzhou city to protest. Some 100 police officers responded, reportedly beating thirty villagers and holding at least four in fifteen-day administrative detention for "disturbing social order."

January 4, 1999 - Police round up Wuhan demonstrators
Some 200 police officers in Wuhan, Hubei province equipped with a dozen armed vehicles, broke up a January 4 demonstration by 100 Qintai furniture factory retirees who had not been paid in three months. The protestors were forced on to the vehicles and driven off; at least three were held overnight.

January 5, 1999 - Government ban on Beijing gatherings to begin on July 1
In an effort to maintain social stability in the run-up to the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the PRC on October 1, 1949, the Beijing city government banned all public gatherings in public spaces, including commercial promotions in shopping malls, effective July 1, 1999. The planned reopening of Tiananmen Square, now closed for renovations and enclosed by temporary partitions, is also set for July 1, a month after the tenth anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on the pro-democracy movement.

January 6-11 - Activists held over hunger strike roles
Four Jilin activists, Tang Yuanjun, Leng Wanbao, Li Wei, and An Fuxing, were briefly detained and warned not to take part in an ongoing hunger strike to protest the long prison terms handed to leading China Democracy Party dissidents in December 1998. All four, formerly workers at Changchun No.1 Motor Works or Jilin Chemical Industry Corporation, had themselves been sentenced to terms ranging between five and twenty years for their part in demonstrations in Changchun, Jilin province, in June 1989. Tang and Li were released in July 1997 after the Changchun court threw out one of the two principal charges against them, "organizing a counterrevolutionary group."

January 8, 1999 - Chinese delegation withdraws from conference over Dalai Lama invite
According to Indian Express, a Jiangsu province delegation to a business conference in India pulled out after the conference organizers extended an invitation to the Dalai Lama to speak about "the role of ethics and values in our life." Delegates from more than a dozen countries had accepted invitations from the Confederation of Indian Industry.

January 1998 - Internet Bulletin boards monitored
"Everything Under the Sun," an Internet bulletin board run by a Chinese computer software firm, was ordered closed for posting messages critical of the government. Since the beginning of the year, special computer software task forces have maintained round-the-clock monitoring of bulletin boards.

January 8, 1999 - Farmers protest over taxes
One demonstrator was killed and some one hundred injured when police and soldiers moved in to break up a protest of 5,000 farmers in Daolin township, Hunan province. The farmers had gathered to protest to protest excessive fees and taxes and the, some 1,000 police and 500 troops, moved in reportedly killing one demonstrator, injuring some 100, and detaining an additional hundred. The protest was brought on by the suicide of a farmer after officials demanded more taxes than he could afford and by government attempts to disband a local group, the Society for Reducing Taxes and Saving the Nation.

January 1998 - Two Guangdong publications in trouble

New Weekly and Shenzhen Pictorial Journal, both Guangdong province publications, were suspended for reporting on events surrounding the June 4, 1989 crackdown. New Weekly faces a four-week suspension for its detailed account and its assertion that 9,158 students were treated for injuries in the wake of the massacre. Shenzhen Pictorial Journal was suspended indefinitely.

January 8, 1999 - Twenty-nine death sentences in Ili
A court official in Ili, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, confirmed that the Ili Intermediate Court had sentenced twenty-nine people to death on charges ranging from subversion, larceny, and assault, to incitement to demonstrate. At least one of the twenty-nine received a two-year reprieve. (Generally, if no new crimes are committed, death sentences with a two-year reprieve are commuted to life imprisonment.) An unofficial account reported that those sentenced included twenty-seven Uighurs and two Kazaks, and that some of them had taken part in the February 1997 demonstrations and rioting in Yining (Gulja), just forty miles from the Kazakhstan border.

January 8, 1999 - China launches three-year "atheism" campaign in Tibet
In order to combat separatist and pro-Dalai Lama sentiment and to promote economic development and stability, the Chinese Communist Party launched a new "atheist propaganda" campaign. "Strengthening atheist propaganda is an important measure in deepening the anti-separatist struggle, in firmly resisting the reactionary infiltration of the Dalai Lama clique and in making farmers and herders shed the negative influence of religion," said a senior Party official quoted by the Tibet Times.

January 11, 1999 - Exiled activist likely detained
The U.S. Free China Movement reported that Zhou Yongjun, a U.S.-based activist was missing and probably in Chinese custody. Zhou was last heard from on December 21 when he was in Hong Kong, having been foiled in an earlier attempt to enter China. A founding member and first chairman of the Beijing Students Autonomous Federation and a legal advisor to the Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation, Zhou spent two years in prison for his participation in the 1989 pro-democracy movement. He fled China in 1992.

January 11, 1999 - Anti-corruption activists arrested
Yue Tianxiang and Guo Xinming were detaubed ub Tianshui, Gansu, a week after they set up the China Labor Watchdog. Both were employed at the Tianshui City Transportation Company. As part of their mission to monitor labor rights and corruption, they had accused the management of their own company of misappropriating money and failing to pay worker wages. The pair were formally arrested on January 26 and charged with subversion.

January 14, 1999 - Five elderly people disappear in Tibet
Five elderly men and women, detained in Tibet for providing humanitarian assistance to political prisoners, especially those with no relatives in city, reportedly have been moved and their current whereabouts are unknown. They include Lhundup Wangmo, Tashi, Tsepak, and Sonam.

January 15, 1999 - Amnesty identifies two to be executed
Abdusalem Shamseden, a worker in a textile factory arrested in June 1997, and Abdusalem Abdurahman are two among a group Uighurs reported to be facing execution, some for their roles in the February 1997 protests in Yining (Gulja), Xinjiang. The sentences, on charges of "organizing a counterrevolutionary group" and "armed activities to overthrow the government," came after a secret trial in the Ili Prefecture Intermediate People's Court in October 1998. Relatives were never informed of the trials. In early January, the Xinjiang high court rejected Abdusalam Shamseden's appeal.

January 16, 1999 - Muslim separatists sentenced to death
Abdushukur Nurallah and Perhat Mollahun, both teachers in Xinjiang, were sentenced to death for subversion and for manufacturing explosives, according to an Amnesty International report. Mollahun's sentence was suspended for two years. The fate of ten others tried at the same time in Korgas, Xinjiang, is not known.

January 19, 1999 - Strict new regulations for Internet cafes
According to the government's newest Internet regulations, all bars and cafes that allow patrons access to the Internet must register and give information about their business operations and their customers to the police.

January 19, 1999 - CDP member expelled from university
Wu Yilong, an activist who refused to resign from the CDP, was expelled from Zhejiang University on January 19, three days before he was due to defend his master's thesis. Authorities denied him permission to remain in Hangzhou, and Wu was sent home to Anhui.

January 20, 1999 - Lin Hai sentenced
On January 20, the Shanghai No.1 Intermediate Court announced a two-year sentence for thirty-year-old computer entrepreneur Lin Hai for "inciting subversion of state power" by passing roughly 30,000 mainland Chinese e-mail addresses to VIP Reference, an overseas dissident publication. Lin, detained on March 25, 1998, argued during his closed four-hour trial on December 4 that he had supplied the e-mail addresses in order to make business contacts and that he was not trying to achieve a political goal. His wife, in public statements, maintained that e-mail addresses were analogous to numbers published in a telephone directory. Lin's appeal to the Shanghai Higher People's Court was rejected in late March.

January 21, 1999 - Government launches new publications campaign
The Chinese government has begun another national campaign against pornography and "illicit" publications, according to an official quoted in a January 21 report in the official New China News Agency. Anti-smuggling efforts are to be intensified, the report notes, because much of the targeted material reaches the Chinese market from abroad. Better management of printing factories and closer monitoring of publication markets are planned for Guangdong; Beijing municipality will seize illicit publications and reward those who turn in offenders.

January 24, 1999 - Underground worshipers arrested
Fifteen Public Security Bureau officers in Guangdian township, Fangcheng county, Henan province broke up a Sunday service at the home of pastor Chu Chang'en, detaining the pastor and some forty-five other Protestants for engaging in "illegal religious activities."

January 25, 1999 - Wang Youcai appeal denied
On January 25, 1999, the Zhejiang Higher People's Court rejected China Democracy Party founder Wang Youcai's appeal and upheld his original eleven-year sentence. Three days later, in violation of government standards, he was transferred to Prison No.1 in Quzhou, some 300 kilometers from his home and a minimum two-day round-trip for his wife. Chinese regulations provide for incarceration close to a prisoner's home. Neither of Wang's fellow CDP activists, Qin Yongmin or Xu Wenli, appealed their respective twelve- and thirteen-year sentences, Xu maintaining that to do so was to legitimize the Chinese legal system.

January 25, 1999 - Police detain underground priests
On January 25, 1999, police officers in Hebei province reportedly detained Father Pei Junchao and Father Chen Hekun as well as an unknown number of underground Catholic church members. No further details about the incident are available. Father Pei is from Youtong village, Shijiazhuang city, the site of a 1989 massive raid on an Easter service. The January 25 arrest is at least the third for thirty-six year-old Father Chen, a Quantou village, Anxin county resident.

January 26, 1999 - Special facilities for Xu Wenli to meet visitors
Prison authorities have constructed a special room equipped with high-tech surveillance to more effectively monitor all visits to Xu Wenli in Yanqing prison outside Beijing. All conversation was recorded, and two police officers were in attendance, one seated by Xu and the other by his wife. They often interrupted to remind husband and wife that certain conversational topics were prohibited. Xu shares a poorly heated cell with several non-political inmates assigned to monitor his activities.

January 26, 1999 - Activist detained
Zhai Weimin, No.6 on the "21 Most Wanted Students" list in 1989, who spent over three years in prison, was picked up on January 26 at his home in Xinan, Henan province. After a police search of the premises, he was permitted to return home, but then picked up again. (See December 4.).

January 27, 1999 - Villagers protest over lack of compensation for lost land
Four hundred peasants from Jiulidi village in Sichuan province gathered in Chengdu, the provincial capital, to protest uncompensated land loss in 1992 when the government opened a science and technology zone in the area. Fifty police officers reportedly stood by until the demonstrators disbanded after government representatives refused to meet with them. Reached by a reporter for comment, a government official denied that any protest had taken place, calling the large number of individuals in the capital the coincidental result of several small groups gathering at the same time. He also denied that the villagers had not been compensated.

January 27, 1999 - Nine arrested for role in January protest
Police arrested nine farmers who allegedly led protests in Daolin village, Hunan province, on January 8. The nine were charged with "gathering a crowd to attack government offices." (See January 8, 1999.)

January 28, 1999 - Second death sentence for prostitution
New China News Service reported that the Hangzhou (Zhejiang province) Intermediate People's Court sentenced Wang Hongying to death for running a prostitution ring. Wang's assistant received a life sentence and two others were sentenced to five- and six-year terms.

January 28, 1999 - Underground Catholics held
Police reportedly detained, beat, and heavily fined an unknown number of peasants in Baoding diocese, Xushui county, Hebei province. It took over a month for word of violence and harassment of underground Catholics in the heavily Catholic area to reach human rights organizations. Father Hu Duo, who is from the affected area, also was detained in January. It was at least the fourth time since 1989 that he was been held.

January 28, 1998 - Activist attempts to form independent trade union
In a letter to Wei Jianxing, head of the state-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions, Beijing-based activist Gao Hongming applied for permission to form an autonomous trade union. He hoped to establish the union as of May 1, 1999.

January 28, 1999 - Xinjiang separatists executed

After a public sentencing on January 28 by the Ili Prefecture Intermediate Court in Xinjiang, Muslim separatists Yibulayin Simayi and Abudureyimu Aisha were executed for their lead roles in planning the February 1997 riots in Yining (Gulja) and for other alleged violent activities. According to the Ili Evening News, Simayi joined a "reactionary" organization in 1991 and engaged in a series of protests and "illegal religious activities" in 1995. Aisha reportedly was a bomb expert. Two other members of Simayi's alleged organization were sentenced to death with two-year reprieves, and six others received lesser sentences.

January 29, 1999 - Right of abode decision announced
In a landmark decision, the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal ruled that mainland children with at least one Hong Kong parent have the right of abode in Hong Kong. In rendering its decision, the Court asserted its power under the Basic Law to interpret laws and declare them "unconstitutional" or in conflict with the Basic Law. The Beijing government's statement that the ruling was incorrect and "should be changed" led to concern that the central government would try to overturn the decision.

January 30, 1999 - Shanghai police detain two democracy activists
Shanghai police detained Dai Xuezhong and Fu Shenping, both members of the China Democracy Party. Fu is the younger brother of Fu Shenqi, first imprisoned during the Democracy Wall period (1979-81), rearrested several times thereafter and now in exile in the United States. Dai has been imprisoned at least twice. He served a three-year re-education through labor sentence for his activities as the Shanghai leader of citizens supporting the 1989 student movement. After his release, he took part in a democracy salon that met in a park in Shanghai, and he worked to help victims of the 1989 crackdown. Dai, who ran a wholesale liquor and beverage business, was tortured so badly in prison that he is still disabled. Arrested again in 1994, he received another three year-term, this time for alleged tax evasion.

January 1999 - Residency permit confiscated
After he started the newsletter, China Environment Observer, police briefly held Xi'an activist He Gewei and confiscated his residency permit.


February 1, 1999 - CDU head given fifteen days for soliciting prostitutes
On February 1, 1999, members of his family announced that China Development Union founder Peng Ming had been administratively sentenced to fifteen days in detention for soliciting prostitutes. The following day, Peng filed an appeal. When the police first picked him up on January 25, Peng told his wife by telephone that the charges were "a political frame-up." (See November 23 and 27.)

February 1, 1999 - Government closes on-line bulletin board service
On February 1, citing technological reasons, Chinese authorities shut down the "New Wave Network," a popular Internet bulletin board service. The move came just four days after Jiancha Ribao (Procuratorial Work Daily) published an article criticizing the bulletin board and comparing it to the "big character posters" of the Cultural Revolution. "New Wave Network" carried discussions about political reform and about the upcoming tenth anniversary of the June 4, 1989 massacre in Beijing.

February 1, 1999 - Cigarettes a partial substitution for pay
Provincial officials in Jianli county, Hubei province forced civil servants to buy county-produced cigarettes at an inflated price and deducted the amount from their salaries. An official, defending the month-old policy in the fiscally-strapped county, said that "If they can buy the cigarettes, it shows they are still receiving state support. They are much better off than laid-off workers."

February 2, 1999 - Three-year sentence to Uighur for "anti-Communist" activity
Abulatudi, director of the Baxilangan hospital in Pishan county, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, was sentenced to three years' reeducation through labor and expelled from the Chinese Communist Party for "anti-Communist incitement," according to the official Xinjiang Daily. No details of his activities are available.

February 4, 1999 - Wang Ce sentenced
On February 4, 1999, the Hangzhou Intermediate People's Court sentenced exiled dissident Wang Ce to a four-year term for illegally entering China and for funding subversive activities. (See December 10.) Wang admitted to entering the country without a visa but claimed that he was left with no other choice when China refused to grant him one. The charge of funding subversive activities stemmed from a U.S.$1,000 gift that Wang Ce gave to Wang Youcai to help the latter meet his living expenses. Wang Ce was tried in a ninety-minute proceeding eight days before his sentence was announced.

February 4, 1999 - Sun Weibang released early
Sun Weibang, serving a twelve-year term for "counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement" in the wake of the 1989 pro-democracy crackdown, was released from Shandong prison No.3 on February 4 after completing more than nine years of his sentence. First jailed in 1981 for his part in the Democracy Wall movement (1979-81), Sun denied playing any role in the 1989 demonstrations beyond supplying free food to protesting students from his restaurant in Qingdao. An unemployed worker living in Shandong at the time, he joined the student demonstrations on May 14, 1989 and was in charge of the Beijing Students Autonomous Federation's broadcasting station. He was arrested on June 2, 1989 and charged with spreading rumors, blocking traffic, and disturbing the social order.

February 4, 1999 - New branches of outlawed CDP opened
In defiance of a government ban, eighteen dissidents formed five new branches of the China Democracy Party. Among the eighteen making the announcement were Liaoning province branch chairman Wang Zechen, and first vice-chairman Wang Wenjiang, a lawyer who was prevented from defending party member Wang Youcai during his December trial and who subsequently publicly renounced his Communist Party membership. Hu Shen, briefly detained when President Clinton was in Xi'an in June 1998, also announced his CDP membership. Two days after the announcement, police detained Wang Zechen, his second detention within a two-month period. At his release a day later, he issued a statement denying that a party branch had been set up in Liaoning.

February 7, 1999 - China Democracy Party detentions continue
For at least the third time in two months, police in Beijing detained Sichuan-based activist Liu Xianbin, a close associate of imprisoned China Democracy Party leader Xu Wenli. (See December 8 and January 23.) His detention came on February 7 as the party announced plans for a meeting on March 1-3 in Wuhan in order to establish a national committee. Members from Beijing, Tianjin, Hubei, Liaoning, Hunan, Shaanxi, Hebei, and from overseas were planning to attend.

February 10, 1999 - CEDAW Committee reports on China
In its concluding comments after reviewing China's compliance with the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the Committee recommended that China invite the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women to visit China and "all of its provinces." It further recommended that "the (Chinese) Government adopt a specific time-frame with budgetary and resource allocation, for the achievement of universal literacy and primary education"; and it repeated its request that data submitted be broken down by province and region and include information on ethnic minorities, particularly Uighurs and Tibetans. The Committee listed among its concerns "diverse forms of violence against women, including custodial violence, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and sexual harassment in the workplace"; "various aspects of the implementation of China's population policy"; and "the status of 'out-of-plan' and unregistered children, many of them girls, who may be officially non-existent and thus not entitled to education, health care or other social benefits."

February 11, 1999 - Police deny Shenzhen protest request
Citing possible social disruption, authorities in Shenzhen turned down a request by angry investors and former employees to march through the city to protest corruption and mismanagement by Shenzhen Champion Futures. The company illegally invested and subsequently lost customers' margin funds, and it refused to pay its employees 700,000 renminbi (U.S.$85,000) in back pay.

February 11, 1999 - Three Uighur activists repatriated
Kazakhstan authorities forcibly repatriated three alleged Uighur separatists to China after refusing to consider their asylum claims. All had well founded fears of persecution. Detained while crossing the border into Kazakstan, Xinjiang residents Hemit Memet, Kasim Mahpir, and Ilyas Zordun were held for several months before being returned. The three fled after wanted posters appeared in Xinjiang listing Hemit Memet as a suspected "separatist," and after the Yining (Gulja) Municipal Security Bureau issued warrants for the arrests of all three.

February 15, 1999 - Gao Yu freed
Seven months before the end of her six-year sentence, journalist Gao Yu was released from prison on February 15 on medical parole. She was forbidden to speak to journalists and to write or leave her Beijing neighborhood without permission. She must undergo a medical check every three months. Gao reportedly has heart and kidney problems. According to family members, Gao plans to accept Columbia University's offer of a scholarship once her parole has expired. She was on her way to New York for study when she was arrested on October 2, 1993. (See December 28.)

February 20, 1999 - One detained as police break up New Year party
Some twenty police officers broke up a New Year gathering of China Democracy Party activists in a teahouse in Hangzhou. Only Shandong province attendee Wang Jinbo, who was in Hangzhou looking for work, was detained. In January, police in Shanghai prevented Dai Xuezhong from entertaining twenty guests at dinner. The guests were informed they were not to visit Dai's home again.

February 23, 1999 - Activist advocates constitutional reform
In advance of the plenary session of the National People's Congress, Beijing activist Gao Hongming released twelve suggested amendments aimed at creating a greater separation between Party and State. Gao advocated eliminating "all terms which underline the leading role of the Communist Party" in the current constitutional preamble, urged that the constitution ensure that no political party "interferes in military, legislative or judicial affairs," and recommended that peasants be granted full ownership of their land. (See November 24, January 28, February 9.)

February 26, 1999 - Central government softens stance on township election
In a significant departure from a centrally-imposed media ban, Beijing authorities reversed themselves and allowed television broadcast of a story on the December 31, 1998 direct elections in Buyun township, Sichuan province. Although China has experimented with elections at the village level, township-level elections have not yet been condoned and the one in Buyun, the first of its kind, went ahead without official approval.

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