China has been exceptionally restive this week, with protests in Qidong over pollution concerns and protests in Hong Kong over fears of government “brainwashing.” Meanwhile, blind activist Chen Guangcheng criticized China’s human rights record after meeting with top US lawmakers. Top Stories for the Week of July 30, 2012 for the People’s Republic of China.
Dissident Chen Guangcheng meets with US lawmakers, criticizes China
On August 1, blind dissident Chen Guangcheng, whose daring escape from house arrest in April captured international headlines, met with top US congressional lawmakers and issued a strong rebuke against the Chinese government. After meeting privately with representatives at the US Capitol, Chen made a public appearance flanked by House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Chen, speaking through an interpreter, stated that China¡¯s human rights situation was ¡°deteriorating¡± but that ¡°more and more Chinese people are not afraid to stand up and assert their rights.¡± He also criticized China¡¯s rule of law, saying that the Chinese government has still not investigated his case, despite its high profile nature. He further expressed concern for his nephew Chen Kegui, who was arrested after defending himself from ¡°armed thugs¡± who burst into his home. Boehner and Pelosi expressed their support and admiration for Chen, as well as their concern about China¡¯s human rights situation. Chen was arrested in 2005 for his work representing a class action lawsuit of women forced to undergo abortions under China¡¯s one child policy .
Unrest in Xinjiang as China jails 20 on terrorist charges, restricts fasting during Ramadan
Officials in China¡¯s western Xinjiang Province sentenced 20 people to up to 15 years in jail on charges of terrorism and separatism on August 2. Four of the suspects were also sentenced for making illegal explosives. Although the ethnicity of the 20 was not released, the names of five of the suspects published in a state-run newspaper indicate they are Uighurs, a Muslim Turkic-speaking ethnic minority who lives in Xinjiang, many of whom have clashed with Beijing over restrictions on their religion and culture. Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exiled World Uighur Congress, asserts that the charges of terrorism were unfounded and that China overstates terrorist threats in order to justify its tight grip on the region. ¡°The aim is to terrorize Uighurs into abandoning their rights,¡± he stated via email. Beijing has blamed the East Turkistan Muslim Movement for inciting unrest in Xinjiang, while activists assert Beijing¡¯s restrictions on Muslim religion and culture is responsible for the unrest. In the latest round of restrictions, Chinese authorities have banned Muslim officials and students from fasting and visiting mosques during the holy month of Ramada. The World Uighur Congress issued a warning that this religious persecution will result in further unrest.
Government cancels waste project following massive protest in Qidong
On July 28 the local government of the port city of Qidong, near Shanghai, announced that they had cancelled plans for a waste water pipeline linked to a Japanese paper factory. Thousands of protesters angry about pollution had demonstrated outside the municipal government compound, entered a government office, and smashed computers and destroyed furniture. This marks the second time in one month that anti-pollution protesters in China took to the street and forced the local government to call off the construction of industrial plants that would harm the local environment, following similar protests in Shifang, a city in Sichuan Province. Chinese official media praised the Qidong protest as a demonstration of people¡¯s increasing awareness of their rights and interests. However, the Japanese background of the waste project also prompted anti-Japanese sentiment among Chinese nationalists both locally and on the Internet, who are calling for the boycott of Japanese products in China.
Thousands take to streets in Hong Kong to oppose ¡°brainwashing¡± education plan
Tens of thousands of parents, students and teachers marched in Hong Kong on July 29 in protest against the local government-backed introduction of Chinese national education standards in Hong Kong schools, which many residents believe to be pro-Beijing and ¡°brainwashing.¡± The new curriculum proposed in Hong Kong is similar to compulsory patriotic education in mainland schools, including a teaching booklet titled ¡°The China Model¡± advocating the Communist Party and the one-party system in China. This marks the latest of a series of mass demonstrations that have occurred in the city recently, following the significant pro-democracy protests on June 4 and July 1; however, Hong Kong education minister stated that such demonstrations will not change the government¡¯s mind about the education plan.
Summaries by Emily Calvert and Christina Zhao, China Program interns at the Carter Center