China Regional Action Network – March 2008
China: Ye Guozhu
Concerns: Housing rights activist and Human Rights Defender, prisoner of conscience
In 2003, officials of the Xuanwu District in Beijing reportedly colluded with developers to force a large number of city residents to relocate. Among the properties seized were a restaurant and living quarters belonging to Ye Guozhu, for which he received no compensation.
On 24 August 2004, Ye Guozhu applied for official permission to hold a public demonstration in mid-September, when the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee was to hold its annual meeting. He was detained three days later and tried in secret by the No.2 Beijing Municipal Intermediate People’s Court. Hundreds of Ye’s supporters surrounded the courthouse asking for his release. On 18 December, Ye Guozhu was convicted of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” and sentenced to four years in prison. His sentence was upheld on appeal.
Ye Guozhu is believed to have been tortured in detention: suspended from the ceiling by the arms and beaten repeatedly by police while in pre-trial detention, and was beaten with electro-shock batons in Chaobai prison, Beijing, towards the end of 2006. He has twice been sent to Qingyuan prison for periods of “discipline”, most recently in February 2007 for a period of 10 months, apparently because he tried to appeal his conviction. During a similar period of “discipline” for four months in 2005, he was reportedly beaten with electro-shock batons, forced to sit upright on a hard chair for extended periods and to wear hand-cuffs and fetters that caused swelling around his ankles.
Ye Guozhu reportedly suffers from pre-existing medical problems, including high blood pressure, heart problems and cerebral thrombosis, as well as from pain in his back and ankles as a result of his treatment in prison. The prison authorities are reportedly providing him only with basic medicine for high blood pressure and preventing members of his family from supplying him with medicine. Ye is believed to be held incommunicado while under ‘discipline’ in Qingyuan prison.
Amnesty International considers the charges against Ye Guozhu to be a politically motivated attempt to prevent him from exercising his human rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. The organization considers Ye Guozhu to be a human rights defender and a prisoner of conscience and is calling for his immediate and unconditional release.
The ongoing rapid redevelopment of Beijing has been accelerated and broadened in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games. Houses have been demolished in various parts of the city to make way for new construction projects. According to Jiang Yu, Spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, as of June 2007, 6,037 families have been displaced by preparations for the Olympic Games since 2002. The Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions estimates that more than 1.25 million people have been displaced in Beijing in connection to urban redevelopment projects, likely rising to 1.5 million by August 2008. Some of these are directly linked to construction projects for the Beijing Olympics. Many have reportedly been evicted without full procedural protection or due process and without adequate compensation. Generally, residents are re-located to housing on the outskirts of the city, which is often reported to be of poor quality. Real estate companies – often owned by or affiliated with the local authorities who evicted the tenants – may then sell the land to property developers for a large profit.
Forced evictions – those carried out without appropriate legal protection – are in violation of human rights including the right to adequate housing enshrined in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which China has ratified. While the Chinese government has taken some legislative steps to protect people from forced evictions – including a recent constitutional amendment that the state respects private property – implementation of such laws and regulations remains weak.
Please send polite letters, in English or your own language, to the Director of the Qinghe Sub-bureau of the Beijing Municipal Prison Management Bureau
- Explaining that Amnesty International considers Ye Guozhu to be a prisoner of conscience and is calling for his immediate and unconditional release.
- Urge him to guarantee that Ye Guozhu is not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment while he remains in prison and that his conditions of detention improve.
- Encourage him to ensure that Ye Guozhu is granted regular visits by his family and has access to lawyers and any necessary medical treatment.
- Ask the Director to provide further information on Ye Guozhu’s state of health and conditions of detention.
Director of Qinghe Sub-bureau of the Beijing Municipal Prison Management Bureau
Beijingshi Jianyu Guanliju Qinghe Fengju
People’s Republic of China
Salutation: Dear Director
Postage for letters or cards to China is 90 cents.
Ambassador of the PRC to the U.S.
Ambassador ZHOU Wenzhong
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
Fax: 1 202 328 2582
Salutation: Your Excellency