China crackdown on dissidents continues despite citizen's Nobel Peace Prize

Winners in medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and peace.
By Keith B. Richburg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, October 28, 2010; 11:52 PM

BEIJING - Three weeks after jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was named the winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, the government in Beijing has continued its crackdown on human rights activists and lawyers in defiance of international criticism.

The ongoing duress - which includes confining some to their homes, following and harassing others and alleged secret detentions - has prompted calls for President Obama and other leaders to raise the issue of Liu's release and human rights in general with Chinese President Hu Jintao during an upcoming summit in Seoul.

This week, a group of 15 past Nobel Peace Prize winners, including former president Jimmy Carter and Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, co-signed a letter asking the leaders of the Group of 20 major industrialized countries to put pressure on China at next month's G-20 summit to release Liu, as well as his wife, Liu Xia, who remains under house arrest with her phone cut off.

Liu Xiaobo, 54, a prominent writer, professor and veteran of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement, was sentenced in December to 11 years in prison for his role in promoting Charter 08, an online manifesto and petition calling for greater freedom and an end to one-party rule in China.

At a news briefing this week, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said, "Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who violated Chinese law," adding that China "opposes anyone making an issue of this case."

Meanwhile, the crackdown on other activists showed no sign of abating.

Pu Zhiqiang, a civil rights lawyer, said he was detained for three days in a hotel after the Nobel announcement Oct. 8 and remains under heavy surveillance. "Everywhere I go, a policeman will follow me for sure," he said by phone. "Sometimes I ask them to drive my car for me."

Li Heping, a human rights lawyer, said that on Oct. 8, police officers brought comforters and slept at the door of his apartment and now follow him everywhere, including to meetings with clients. "Once my friend sent me a text message to invite me to dinner," he said. "They knew, and came and asked me for the details."

Another lawyer, Li Fangping, said three policemen have been following him for three weeks. "I went on a business trip two days ago, and they saw me off at the train station," he said.

Rights activists also continue to worry about the fate of Ding Zilin, who heads a group of relatives of victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and who disappeared along with her husband, Jiang Peikun, on Oct. 14.

In Shanghai, activist Feng Zhenghu was taken away by police Monday and has not been heard from since, according to a human rights group.

Activists and other analysts say they fear the surveillance and harassment will continue at least through the Nobel awards ceremony in Oslo on Dec. 10, which Hong Kong-based Human Rights Watch researcher Nicholas Bequelin called "the big looming deadline."

"The government doesn't want to make the situation worse by arresting anyone," Bequelin said. "But they want to keep an eye on all the known activists and dissidents."

Staff researcher Liu Liu contributed to this report.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company