Oct 19, 2007

China: The True Voices of the People

The Chinese authorities have many ways of silencing opposition to their regime, but there will always be those who speak out for justice and freedom.

The Chinese authorities have many ways of silencing opposition to their regime, but there will always be those who speak out for justice and freedom.

Below is an article by the BBC:

Although China's Communist Party exerts huge power and influence over the everyday lives of its citizens, there are several activists who continue to pose major problems for the authorities.


Lawyer for abused women, in jail

Mr Chen, a blind activist known as the "barefoot lawyer", has clashed with the authorities over the enforcement of China's one-child policy.

The 36-year-old has defended women whom he said were being forced into late-term abortions and being sterilised by over-zealous health officials in Linyi city, Shandong Province.

He was sentenced to four years and three months in prison in August last year [2006], after being convicted of damaging property and disrupting traffic.

The sentence drew international criticism, with campaigners and supporters claiming that the prosecution was politically motivated.

Mr Chen, who remains in jail, has won several international awards for his work.


Minority rights campaigner, lives in US

Mrs Kadeer is a well-known campaigner for the rights of China's Uighur community - a Muslim minority group in the restive north-western Xinjiang province.

She was a successful businesswoman and philanthropist until her arrest in 1999 for allegedly endangering national security.

Her crime was to send local newspaper reports about the Uighurs to her US-based husband.

That these reports were freely available did not prevent her from being jailed. She was freed in 2005 and allowed to leave China.

Mrs Kadeer, twice-married and the mother of at least 11 children, continues to criticise the communist rulers from her home in the US.

She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.


Tibetan religious leader, uncertain whereabouts

In 1995, six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was selected by the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism.

He was seen as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama - the second-most important figure in Tibetan religion, culture and politics after the Dalai Lama himself.

Three days later he was detained by the authorities - the last time his supporters saw him.

Mystery surrounds his fate, although officials in Tibet told the BBC recently that the boy, now aged 18, was living a quiet life in the capital, Lhasa.

Beijing installed their own boy, Gyaincain Norbu, as the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama - although most Tibetans are thought to remain faithful to the Dalai Lama's choice.


Former mandarin, under house arrest

Bao Tong was an adviser to the Communist Party's general secretary Zhao Ziyang at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

Both men had opposed the brutal crackdown on the protesting students, and both suffered for their stance.

Mr Zhao was replaced as party boss by Jiang Zemin, and Mr Bao was handed a seven-year jail term.

Since his release, he has lived under house arrest, managing to smuggle out occasional essays criticising China's one-party rule.

In a letter released at the time of his former boss's death in 2005, Mr Bao wrote that the authorities were "constantly worried about Mr Zhao and determined to erase his name from the hearts and minds of the people".

His letter went on: "Their purpose is none other than to prevent 1.4 billion people from advancing toward a society of modernity, democracy and law."


Journalist, in jail

Shi Tao, who worked for the Contemporary Business News in China, was jailed for 10 years in 2005 for "divulging state secrets".

It is thought he sent an e-mail describing the efforts made by the Communist Party to censor reporting in the run-up to the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

His case has become a cause celebre for free speech campaigners - not least because internet firm Yahoo has been accused of informing on him.

The US-based web giant was said to have passed on details of his whereabouts to the authorities.

Mr Shi - a writer and a poet - was awarded the Golden Pen of Freedom from the World Association of Newspapers earlier this year.

HIV/Aids activist, lives in Henan province

Dr Gao is famous for exposing China's worst HIV scandal.

Her work helped to reveal how corrupt blood-selling deals infected thousands of people with the virus in the 1990s.

Companies known as "bloodheads" offered money to peasants in return for donations.

The firms - run by officials and businessmen - would take the blood, remove the plasma and inject the remaining blood back into the peasants - often using dirty needles or infected blood pools.

Dr Gao overcame a climate of secrecy to end the practice and draw attention to the scandal.

The authorities were initially lenient with her, but Beijing grew uncomfortable with her criticism of provincial Communist leaders.

She has been stopped from going abroad twice since 2001 to receive prizes, and is said to have undergone several periods of house arrest.

Earlier this year she was allowed to visit the US to collect a prize from Vital Voices, a non-profit group supported by Senator Hillary Clinton.