Risky business in China: speaking out for human rights
June 4, 1997
Web posted at: 1:44 p.m. EDT (1744 GMT)
From Correspondent Rebecca MacKinnon
BEIJING (CNN) -- Eight years after the Chinese military's
bloody Tiananmen Square attack on pro-democracy
demonstrators, China's economy is booming and living
standards continue to rise, but few Chinese dare speak out
against their leaders.
Chu Hailan is an exception, risking her freedom to remind the
outside world of China's dark side.
Her husband, Liu Nianchun, is in prison, serving a three year
sentence for -- among other things -- criticizing the
government's actions on June 4, 1989.
A L S O
Tiananmen anniversary quiet in Beijing;
Images from a vigil in Victoria Park, Hong Kong
Chu says he's being tortured. "They have been beating him
every day with a 10,000 volt electric baton," she told CNN.
"He has been put in a solitary confinement cell which is too
small to lie down, and they're not giving him water or
enough food to live on."
The torture, Chu says, began last month after Liu began a
hunger strike to protest a six-month extension of his
sentence, imposed after he refused to write a confession.
Liu was imprisoned for collaborating with jailed student
leader Wang Dan on a petition urging government leaders to
re-evaluate the Tiananmen Square crackdown, accepting money
from overseas human rights groups, and trying to organize a
group to promote workers' rights.
"Why does our government do this?" Chu asks. "Why do they
persecute someone who only thinks and writes?"
In terms of prison conditions and arbitrary detentions,
persecution by the Chinese government has "probably gotten
worse," according to Sidney Jones of Human Rights Watch.
"As economic development proceeds in China, political
repression has increased," she told CNN.
Economic pressure and human rights
As the U.S. Congress prepares to debate whether to renew
China's most favored nation trading status, the international
community is divided over whether the easing of economic
pressure on Beijing in recent years has hurt or helped the
human rights situation.
Chu Hailan believes it hurts. "Since (President) Clinton
announced his support for most favored nation status,
they've sentenced Wang Dan, my husband, and (dissident) Wei
Jingsheng, all in a row."
"My husband is sick and they won't give him treatment, even
though they say publicly they've been treating him. They're
using all kinds of techniques to obscure the truth."
China's economic growth and trade with the outside world have
improved the quality of life for millions of Chinese, most of
whom have little interest in politics.
But exactly what -- if anything -- the outside world can do
to get people like Liu Nianchun out of jail remains an open
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