House Arrest for Lawyers, Dissidents: Activists monitored over plan to meet

Kristin Kwok – South China Morning Post
June 17, 2010

A group of dissidents and rights lawyers in Beijing have been placed under house arrest or harassed for planning a get-together at a homeless activist’s tent yesterday.
The dissidents and lawyers last night planned to visit human rights activist Ni Yulan , a former lawyer who was left homeless after a forced eviction, as a gesture of support and to mark the Dragon Boat festival.
The plan attracted support after being publicised on Twitter, a popular social networking site that has been blocked on the mainland but is still used by defiant internet users able to circumvent the censorship. The activists believed the Twitter postings alerted the police and prompted the crackdown.
Despite the crackdown, some Twitter users went ahead to meet Ni, but only to find that police had removed her and husband Dong Jiqin just before the gathering.
A witness said more than 50 police officers in eight cars came down a tunnel, where they planned to have the gathering as it was drizzling, just as Ni arrived. “They pushed her wheelchair and dragged her husband away,” the witness said. “Why would they deploy so many people to get two ordinary people?”
Activist Liu Dejun , who also planned to attend the gathering, said he and at least three other dissidents were taken away and harassed by police on Tuesday night.
“They knocked on my door at midnight and forced it open at around 2am. They then blindfolded me and took me to the countryside, where they beat me up and asked me what my plan was on Wednesday night,” Liu said yesterday. Liu said he was dumped in the countryside and hitchhiked back to the city centre yesterday morning.
Another activist, Su Yutong , who initiated the gathering on Twitter, was also taken away by police on Tuesday night and released yesterday morning.
Su was not available for comment yesterday. But her friend Liu Di, a fellow dissident, sent a Twitter message yesterday that Su had been unable to return home and she asked friends not to call her or send messages.
Aside from the activists, rights lawyers were placed under house arrest in an apparent police attempt to bar them from the meeting.
Li Fangping said three plain-clothes officers had been watching his door since yesterday morning. “They didn’t explain why they were there, but they asked me what I would be doing tonight [Wednesday night],” Li said.
Aside from himself, Li said other lawyers, including Jiang Tianyong and Tang Jitian , were also placed under police scrutiny yesterday.
Teng Biao , a Beijing-based lawyer who planned to attend the gathering but had to cancel because of a work-related trip, said the Twitter publicity could have made the police more suspicious.
“We tweeted about the gathering because we wanted more people to know Ni and support her. What the police did is a shame; it’s totally against the law,” Teng said.
Ni, formerly a rights lawyer who helped plaintiffs in many forced eviction cases, has been living in a makeshift tent at an emergency shelter in the Huangchenggen Relics Park since her release from jail in April.
Ni was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of interference with public administration while fighting against the demolition of her house in 2008.
“My husband and I at first stayed at a guesthouse for a while but then the government threatened them and forced them to kick us out. Since then, no one dares let us stay at their property,” said Ni, who has had to use a wheelchair since 2002, when police officers badly beat her for helping someone in a forced eviction case.

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