(AFP) – Sep 3, 2007
BEIJING (AFP) — China has arrested an activist who gathered 10,000 signatures for an open letter spurning the Beijing Olympics and demanding human rights, a rights group and dissident said Tuesday.
Yang Chunlin was arrested in northeast China's Heilongjiang province on July 6 and charged on Monday with attempting to subvert state power, according to a statement by China Human Rights Defenders, a loose coalition of activists.
Veteran dissident Hu Jia said the arrest was part of a government crackdown to "clear up" politically sensitive cases ahead of the 2008 Beijing Games.
"Right now I'm helping Yang Chunlin to hire a lawyer," Hu told AFP by phone from the Beijing home where he lives under tight police control.
"The authorities have threatened Yang's family and relatives. Yang's wife dares not speak to anyone because of the threats."
According to China Human Rights Defenders, Yang's arrest was linked to an open letter entitled "We Want Human Rights, Not The Olympics," which was signed by more than 10,000 people, including many Heilongjiang farmers.
Yang had been helping the farmers seek legal redress over the loss of their farmlands due to land expropriation, it said.
Land confiscation has become a hot social issue in China. Ordinary citizens routinely accuse local officials of colluding with land developers in lucrative real estate deals that begin with government-backed land acquisitions.
Rights activists say large numbers of Beijing residents have been forced from their homes by Olympics-related construction projects.
The rights group called Yang's arrest "alarming" and expressed shock at the apparent willingness of the government to make opposition to the Olympics "a political crime."
"The China Human Rights Defenders condemn the arrest of Yang Chunlin on suspicion of subversion because he dissented from the official line on the Olympics," its statement said.
"The Ministry of Public Security's direct involvement in ordering Yang's arrest, and the subversion charge against him, point to the nervousness and political sensitivity with which the government views efforts to link the Olympics and human rights."
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