Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that the whereabouts of Shanghai petitioner Chen Xiaoming remain unknown following his secret detention in February. Sources close to Chen worry that his disappearance is related to his contacts with a U.S. consular official.
Sources say Chen was detained by around a dozen police officers from Shanghai’s Luwan District Public Security Bureau (PSB) on the evening of February 15. According to HRIC’s sources, the PSB suspects Chen of bringing an American consular official to the home of petitioner Fu Yuxia on the evening of February 13 while a number of other petitioners were gathered in Fu’s home.
According to the March 17 issue of the official Wen Hui Bao, during a meeting of the Shanghai Municipal Petitions Working Group on March 16, Shanghai’s deputy Party secretary, Liu Yungeng, said, “We must strike fear in the hearts of some of these people with inscrutable intentions. In particular, there is a certain foreign diplomat who has been secretly meeting with a group of petitioners for the purposes of making use of internal confusion among the people...We must use legal means to strike a decisive blow against this.” (Liu’s comments can also be accessed online at http://www.gov.cn/gzdt/2006-03/17/content_229244.htm.)
According to HRIC’s sources, Chen was one of more than a dozen petitioners detained on February 15, and his home was subsequently searched twice. Sources say Chen was originally held in a storage room of the PSB station, and that in the middle of the night on March 6 he was stripped naked and physically abused, his cries for help audible from outside. On March 31, sources say, Chen was designated a key suspect and transferred to a secret location, and no one has had any news of him since.
Sources say that other petitioners have also been detained or harassed following their encounter with the American diplomat, including Fu Yuxia, who was detained on February 15 and released on April 5. She remains under residential surveillance.
Petitioner Han Zhongming and his wife, who were present in Fu’s home during the diplomat’s visit, were reportedly subjected to surveillance and monitoring, culminating in Han being secretly detained while at a friend’s house on February 16. Han’s wife reported his disappearance to the police, but no action was taken. When she made further enquiries at the beginning of April, sources say, police told her that Han was being held under residential surveillance, but have provided no warrant or other information regarding the charges under which Han is being held.
Long-time petitioner Ma Yalian, who was not present in Fu’s home during the diplomat’s visit, was also detained on February 15 at the home of a friend, and was held in the Fengqi Hotel in Pudong New District under the watch of a dozen police officers until her release on May 6. At the time of Ma’s release, a police officer from the Huangpu PSB branch reportedly told her, “Your residential surveillance has been completed, but you must not talk to the media about your detention, and you remain released on bail for one year.”
HRIC is deeply concerned over the disappearance of Chen Xiaoming and over reports that he has been maltreated in custody. HRIC calls for the immediate release of Chen Xiaoming and Han Zhongming, and for termination of the residential surveillance and bail conditions imposed on Fu Yuxia and Ma Yalian. HRIC also urges the U.S. government to raise this matter with the relevant Chinese officials and take any other appropriate steps to follow up on these cases.