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International Award for Petitioners Intercepted

April 27, 2007

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that the certificates for an international housing award presented to several Chinese activists have been intercepted en route to several recipients.

In December 2006, the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) presented its 2006 Housing Rights Defender Award jointly to Ma Yalian, Zheng Enchong, Xu Zhengqing, Fu Xiancai, Liu Zhengyou, Huang Weizhong and Chen Xiaoming in recognition of their outstanding commitment to the realization of housing rights for all people.

Following the award's announcement, a Shenzhen-based writer, Zhao Dagong, was asked to send the certificates to Ma Yalian and some other recipients through a Shenzhen express shipping company. Considering the sensitive nature of the documents and their recipients, Zhao decided to send the certificates to a friend in Shanghai, Cheng Zhiying. However, the documents vanished after reaching the express shipping office in Shanghai. Four days after Zhao Dagong sent out the documents, the Shenzhen shipping office notified him that Cheng Zhiying had signed for the package. Sources say Cheng insists that he had not in fact received the package, and received no satisfactory explanation from the shipping company.

This case reflects another example of harassment of petitioners and other activists by the government.

Sources say that on February 6, 2007, Ma Yalian, Cheng Zhiying and others went personally to the Shanghai shipping office to complain and to demand an explanation for the incident. After an hour's wait, a customer service representative named Huang Xiaotao told them that on December 25, 2006, the parcel had been stolen, and that the matter had been reported to the police. When Ma and the others required further documentation of the incident, a manager surnamed Guo claimed that Ma and the others were impeding the company's work, and called in the police. Another shipping company employee reportedly assaulted Cheng Zhiying in the presence of police officers, but police took no action.

Further inquiries by Ma and the others found discrepancies between what the shipping company told them, and what was recorded in the police incident report. Subsequent information suggests that police confiscated the package while carrying out a "contraband inspection" at the shipping office on December 25.

This case reflects another example of harassment of petitioners and other activists by the government. Further, the interception under a "contraband inspection," undermines the right to privacy of communication, protected in the PRC Constitution and elsewhere in Chinese and international law.