March - April 1999

March 1999

March 1, 1999 - Human rights meeting canceled
After several organizers were briefly detained and others prevented from attending, China Democracy Party organizers canceled their planned human rights seminar. On February 23, Wuhan dissidents Chen Zhonghe, Zhang Hanjian, and Xiao Shichang, members of the banned China Democracy Party, submitted a letter to local police informing them of their plans to hold a human rights on March 1-3 at the Zhuo Yue Hotel in Wuhan. (See February 7 and 9.) Some eighty supporters were expected to attend. Police officers accepted the letter without comment. However, Xiao and Chen were warned twice in February to cancel the gathering. At the time of the second warning, the two were finally detained. As of March 31, they were still being held.

March 3, 1999 - Activist starts new political party
Police in Shenzhen detained Miao Xinke, former karaoke business owner, on March 3, two days before the opening of the National People's Congress (NPC). On March 1, Miao announced the formation of a new political party, the China Rights Party, and originally promised a news conference in Beijing to discuss its dedication to the promotion of civil rights. However, he decided that police surveillance was too intense to go ahead with the plan. Attempts to register with the Liaoning Provincial Civil Affairs Department were unsuccessful.. Miao was released two days after the NPC session ended on March 15.

March 4, 1999 - No new publication permits issued
After President Jiang Zemin complained about the number of publications in circulation, relevant authorities reportedly decided to put a freeze on issuing new publication permits, at least through June 1999.

March 7, 1999 - Li Li released
Spain-based Chinese Liberal Democratic Party-Alliance for a Democratic China member Li Li was released four months after he was detained with Wang Ce, the Party's chairman, and other dissidents. (See November 2.)

March 7, 1999 - Wang Zechen and Wang Wenjiang held again
For nine hours on March 7, police in Liaoning once again interrogated China Democracy Party members Wang Zechen and Wang Wenjiang. It is believed that their brief detentions were intended to warn the two to stay out of Beijing during the National People's Congress meeting which began March 5.

March 8-22 - U.N. needs assessment teams visits China
As a follow up to the September 1998 visit to China and Tibet by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, a four-person team, comprised of U.N. personnel and independent China experts, visited China. Their mission was to assess how the UN can help China prepare to meet its obligations under the two U.N. covenants it has signed but not yet ratified.

March 10, 1999 - Monks demonstrate in Lhasa
Security police detained two Tibetan monks in Barkhor Square in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, after they shouted slogans on March 10, the fortieth anniversary of the 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. According to the Tibet Information Network, some eighty people were detained prior to the anniversary date in a preemptive bid to discourage the commemoration. Security in the capital was extraordinarily tight with soldiers in riot gear accompanied by dogs patrolling the streets. Monks from major monasteries were forbidden to travel. All foreigners had their IDs checked and were told to stay with their groups for "protection." The Jokhang, the major religious site in Lhasa, was closed for "cleaning."

March 11, 1999 - Missile researcher's trial anticipated
A Stanford University official reported that US-based missile researcher, Hua Di, held in China since January 1998, was expected to go on trial soon. Hua, born in China and now sixty-three years old, came to the U.S. in 1989 after decades as a leading military scientist. At the time, there was a warrant out for his arrest in connection with a document he and three other scientists signed denouncing the 1989 crackdown in Beijing. The January trip was his first back to China. Hua is a permanent U.S. resident and had expected to become a citizen on July 1.

March 11, 1999 - Supreme court orders open trials
After experimentation in Beijing municipality beginning in July 1998, China's Supreme Court ordered that lower-level and appeals courts must open trials to the public unless state secrets, personal privacy or juveniles are involved. Divorce courts remain closed as do commercial secrets cases. The order also said courts retain the right to give journalists permission to attend trials. In connection with the order, Supreme Court President Xiao Yang said that he was seeking to boost transparency within the legal system and curb corruption in the judiciary.

March 11, 1999 - Wang Lixiong freed in Xinjiang
Wang Lixiong was allowed to leave Xinjiang one month after being detained there, reportedly for possession of state secrets. Wang is noted for two books, the 1991 novel Yellow Peril, which describes a civil war in China ending in a nuclear conflict and an influx of millions of starving refugees into all parts of Asia, and the 1998 Sky Burial, a non-fiction work critical of the Chinese government's Tibetan policies. He traveled to Xinjiang to do research on January 10. He reportedly was picked up in Hami, a desert oasis town and returned to Urumqi, the capital, for interrogation. On March 3, his Beijing home was searched and books, computer files, and hand-written manuscripts confiscated.

March 13, 1999 - Wu Yilong released
After some two weeks in detention in Hangzhou, Public Security Bureau officers released Wu Yilong, a China Democracy Party member, and sent him home to Anhui. The February detention was the third for Wu within a four-month period.

March 13, 1999 - Peasants sentenced for "illegal" business
The Beijing No.2 Intermediate Court sentenced two peasants, Wang Shiquan and Zheng Zhikao, to three and two-and-a half-year terms for "illegally managing a business." The two, first detained in November, reportedly sold hundreds of copies of politically sensitive books.

March 15, 1999 - Beijing's "Xinjiang village" razed
Bulldozers and wrecking crews demolished more than thirty popular Muslim restaurants and the owners' adjacent homes in a festive Beijing area colloquially known as Xinjiang village. The demolition reportedly was undertaken partly to spruce up the capital before the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the founding of the People's Republic of China, and partly to reduce the city's migrant population. Police and officials diverted traffic and banned journalists from the area while some 1,000 residents scrambled to collect their belongings, According to residents, no compensation agreement had been offered at the time the demolition started. At the time they left the area, their petition to the Beijing Minority Affairs Committee asking for postponement or compensation had gone unanswered.

March 17, 1999 - Miners held after protest
Some 500 laid-off miners, protesting in shifts, clashed with police in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, during three days of demonstrations over unpaid living expenses. They had traveled from Dujiang mine, fifty kilometers from the capital, to ask for official intervention. Officials acknowledged the protest but denied there had been clashes or arrests. They put the number of protestors at forty.

March 18, 1999 - Businessman held for other's debts
A Beijing Court promised to investigate the case of Lok Yuk-shing, a Hong Kong resident held for eight months in the Dongsheng Public Security Bureau Detention Center in Inner Mongolia over a former employer's business debts. Xinhua reported that the State Council's Overseas Chinese Affairs Office had designated 1999 as "Action Year for Service for Overseas Chinese Enterprises" to investigate and punish those responsible for abusing the rights of Hong Kong and overseas Chinese involved in just such cases.

March 1995 - Sichuan dissident held for third time
After Sichuan police picked up Liu Xianbin for the third time in four months, they detained him for fifteen days. (See December 8.)

March 19, 1999 - Fangfa shutdown ordered
The State Press and Publications Administration has ordered Fangfa, a ten-year-old magazine renowned among scholars and government officials for its liberal voice and lively political debates, to immediately stop publication. At a January meeting of China's censors, the journal was heavily criticized and told to suspend publication and "undergo rectification." But its editors, arguing they had not been properly notified, went ahead with the March issue.

March 20, 1999 - Dissident detained again
Yu Tielong, who was prevented from running for village chief (see November 1998), was seized again despite his protests that police had no right to detain him without warrant.

March 20, 1999 - Bishop still missing in China
According to the latest reports, the whereabouts of sixty-seven year-old Bishop Su Zhimin, the underground bishop of Baoding diocese in Hebei province, are still unknown. He has been missing for the past seventeen months despite never having been formally arrested, convicted or sentenced. In 1997, while in hiding, Bishop Su managed to issue an open appeal to the Chinese government detailing persecution of Catholics and asking for its cessation.

March 20, 1998 - CDP members continue to be harassed
On March 20, four China Democracy Party members in Hangzhou were detained for four hours after police blocked their strategy session.

March 24, 1999 - Police officer sentenced for exposing colleagues
On March 24, the Gulou District Court sentenced Gao Shaokun, a retired police officer, to a two-year prison term for "disturbing public order and impersonating a police officer." He was detained on January 25, after he wrote the National People's Congress and told the foreign press about a January 4 peasant protest in Xuzhou by residents of Guoyuan village. Their complaints were directed at excessive taxes and interference in a village election. Guo's letter described how police beat some thirty protesters and detained several, among them Guo's brother, Guo Shaorong.

March 24, 1999 - Dissident on hunger strike
Che Hongnian, convicted of "plotting and inciting to overthrow the state" for sending two letters to a Hong Kong-based organization, began a hunger strike on March 24 after his appeal was turned down. He was given a three-year reeducation through labor sentence on January 12, 1999. Formerly a worker at No.1 Machine Tool Factory in Jinan, Shandong province, Che had earlier served a two-year term for his part in the 1989 pro-democracy movement.

March 25, 1999 - Bao Tong asks Chinese leaders to reverse June 4 verdict
Bao Tong, former chief aide to ousted Premier Zhao Ziyang and a Central Committee member, wrote top Party and government leaders on March 25 urging that they "reverse the assessment of the student demonstrations" and do so quickly before it is done for them. Bao, who was a leader in Communist Party reform circles, served a seven-year term for opposing the Party's decision to use violence to put down the 1989 pro-democracy movement.

March 26, 1999 - Castro booked banned in China
The China News Publishing Agency banned further sales of The Last Revolutionary of the Twentieth Century, a biography of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, after the Cuban embassy complained that the book hurt his image. Its author is a historian at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The 8,000 copies already in print have been recalled.

March 26, 1999 - Shi Binhai released
According to a Hong Kong magazine, Shi Binhai, one of the editors of Political China: Facing the Era of Choosing a new Structure, a book of essays on political reform written by government scholars and journalists, was released on March 26, 1999 after seven months in detention. The China Economic Times, Shi's former employer, the state-run China Economic Times, acted as guarantor. Shi, a Shanghai resident, was arrested on September 5, 1998, two months after the book's appearance seemed to signal a "Beijing Spring." There has been speculation that Shi was really held for daring to interview former premier Zhao Ziyang, deposed in 1989 for opposing the use of force in Beijing. From 1989 to 1991, Shi was imprisoned for his support of the pro-democracy movement.

March 29, 1999 - Fang Jue charged
Fang Jue, an official turned reformer, was formerly charged with fraud and illegal business practices during the week of March 22. The forty-four year-old Fang, formerly deputy director of the Fuzhou (Fujian province) Economic Planning Commission and an official at the Water Resources Ministry, and later an independent entrepreneur, was accused of defrauding a Fuzhou businessman of 70,000 renminbi (U.S.$8,400) and of falsely promising to help him obtain oil import quotas. He is further charged with illegally giving such quotas to a firm in Jiangsu province in exchange for 75,000 renminbi. Plainclothes officers seized Fang on July 23, 1998 as he was on his way to meet a friend in a Beijing hotel. The charges against him are thought to be politically motivated, stemming from the January 1998 foreign press publication of his essay, "China Needs a New Transformation," which called for democratic reforms, including press freedom, direct presidential elections, and civilian control of the military. In August, after he refused to cooperate by naming middle-ranking and senior officials who, he said in his tract, shared his views, he was formally arrested and his home confiscated. Police turned over the case to the procuracy in February.

March 30, 1999 - Teenage democracy activist arrested
Nineteen-year-old Wang Yingzheng, a high school graduate, was formally arrested after being held in custody for over a month. The exact charges are still unknown. Police caught Wang in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province on February 26, 1999 where he was photocopying an article he wrote about the relationship between corruption and the ban on opposition parties and a free press. In August, after Wang went to Wuhan to help Qin Yongmin (see December 21-22) with organizing the Beijing-Tianjin branch of the China Democracy Party, he was picked up for questioning and sent home.

March 31, 1999 - New restrictions on tourists in Tibet
New regulations mandate that tourists in Lhasa cannot move around except in the company of an official tour guide. The restriction applies even to those who are not part of an organized tour and who do not wish to visit scenic spots. Before the change, although they were organized in administrative "tour groups," tourists were free to move about the city on their own. The Lhasa Tourism Bureau attributes the changes to "traffic problems."

APRIL 1999

April 1, 1999 - Businessman held despite court's ruling
Public Security Bureau officials have held Hong Kong businessman Yiu Yun-fai since February 2 even though the Cangzhou procuratorate ordered his release. After Yiu went to Cangzhou to check on goods his employer, the Macao-based Wah King Company, had ordered from a local contractor, a dispute erupted. When Liu's employer could not be located, he was seized instead. On March 7, after the ruling, the police moved Liu from the Cangzhou Detention Center to a house. According to the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, more than ten Hong Kong citizens are held on the mainland.

Beijing Spring Turns to Winter: China Toughens Stance on Human Rights - Campaigns Page

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