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Crackdowns on Chinese Human-Rights Activists and NK Defectors Intensifying
Ahead of Beijing Olympics

By Kato Hiroshi

With the Olympics only months away, Hu Jia, an HIV-rights activist, has been arrested by the Chinese authorities for subversion. According to those involved in the case, on December 27 2007, about 20 police officers served Hu with a warrant at his home in Qufu, Shandong Province, then arrested him. For 30 days after his arrest, his mobile phone was not working.

Hu worked closely with democracy activists and human-rights lawyers from all over the country, as well as western diplomatic officials. This, as well as his open e-mail in which he wrote about crackdowns by the authorities, appears to have struck a nerve: Hu was imprisoned from July 2006 to February 2007.

Crackdowns against those seen as anti-government are intensifying. Chen Guangcheng, a blind activist who was nominated for the Magsaysay Prize for his work helping victims of forced abortions, was arrested. Well-known human-rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng was given a suspended sentence for subversive activities. Guo Hyuma, a human-rights activist, was given a five-year sentence in November for illegal business activities. Li Heping, a lawyer known for his work related to forced abortions, was abducted and beaten by an unknown group.

Human rights and democracy rights activists are being arrested on a regular basis in China in the run-up to the Olympics; China, perhaps fearing the effect the dissidents’ actions might have, is stepping up its efforts to whittle away their power.

The crackdown by Chinese authorities is not only targeting democracy and human rights activists. Efforts to flush out of hiding North Koreans who enter China seeking freedom are also on the rise. On December 12, in the Quinhuangdao area of Beidaihe (in Hebei, which is famous as a Communist Party summer resort), a concerted operation to hunt down North Korean defectors took place. Forty defectors were arrested in the area; one of those arrested and taken to Quin Long Prison later broke a window and committed suicide using the broken shards of glass to slit her wrists. Kim Yong Ja, a 46-year-old woman (born May 7, 1957), had been an ordinary housewife from Kuwol dong, Pyongsong city in Pyongan Province, North Korea. It is thought that Kim Yong Ja killed herself out of fear of being forcibly repatriated and the harsh interrogation and punishment she would face in North Korea. According to a reliable source in contact with this organization, her suicide was a protest against her brutal treatment at the hands of the Chinese police.

On December 15, 2007, at the international conference held during North Korean Human Rights Week, we expressed our deepest condolences to her family. In addition, we sent a letter to the Chinese embassy in Japan protesting, in the strongest language possible, the barbaric hunting down of North Korean refugees, as well as the imprisonment, torture, and execution they face when they are forcibly repatriated. We sent an information package to the media for publication.