Category Archives: 2011

Calgary woman gets a taste of Chinese justice…

Calgary woman gets a taste of Chinese justice…

By Gillian Steward gsteward@telus.net/403-243-2265

Attn: Andrew Phillips/Editorial Page Editor/Toronto Star.

Dec. 18 /2011
Karen Patterson remembers every detail of the day her husband was released from a Chinese jail after a severe beating, two trials, and almost a year in custody.

Patterson, who has since returned to Calgary, had started fighting for Wu Yuren’s release in June of 2010 when she discovered that he was being held in a cell at a detention centre in Beijing.

His crime? Simply showing up at the police station with a friend who was having a dispute with his landlord. But the real crime, as the far as the police were concerned, was more likely the fact that Wu was an outspoken artist and political activist.

That doesn’t go over well in China these days.

Patterson had lived and worked in China for almost 15 years; she and Wu had a six-year-old daughter. So she knew China well enough to figure out that she had to use her advantage as a Canadian citizen to challenge the system and fight hard for his release.

“Chinese women are silenced much more easily, their families are threatened. So it is harder for them to fight back if their husbands are imprisoned for speaking out,” she said during an interview.

As a result of her efforts, Wu’s incarceration became somewhat of an international cause célèbre. At one point during his trial 150 people gathered outside the courtroom to sing and chant.  Canadian and international news media picked up the story. Amnesty International started a letter writing campaign on Wu’s behalf.

But almost a year later, after two trials but no conviction, Wu was still in custody.  Patterson thought he might have already been sent to prison where he could remain for years.

And then on April 3rd of this year Wu called her on her cell phone and said he was being released.

She was shocked. 

He told her the police were going to drop him off at a location just outside Beijing and they wanted her to agree to pick him up.

She arrived at the designated spot. A large black car with tinted windows was waiting.  A man in a bullet proof vest stepped out of the car.  And then Wu stepped out.   

“Everyone was ‘China nice’ to each other, very polite. And then they left,” Patterson said.  “I later found out that they were the secret police.”

Wu told her he had been taken from his cell at midnight and driven to a hotel/spa outside Beijing that the police use to temporarily hold new detainees or those being released. The next day they took him out to get new shoes, a suit, and a haircut.

But while Wu was not in a cell anymore, he was not free. He was given a special cell phone with which the police could track his every movement, his passport was taken away, and he was told he could not talk to the news media. And yet, he had never been convicted of any wrong doing.

Even before Wu was released, Patterson had decided it was time for her to leave China. She and Wu were already separated when he was incarcerated. But because she decided to fight for his release she had problems renewing her visa, she had to close her businesses, and she was hassled and harassed by the police at every opportunity. 

Patterson also found out that her landlady had been pressured by the police to evict her from her apartment. Luckily, the woman stood her ground so Patterson and her daughter wouldn’t suddenly find themselves on the street.

“That was incredibly brave of her,” said Patterson. “I will always be grateful.”

Patterson and Wu agreed that it would be best for her and young Hannah to come back to Calgary.  They arrived in June but remain in touch with Wu through email and Skype.

And although Patterson still worries about what will eventually happen to Wu and all those other people in China who are persecuted day after day, she’s glad to be spending this Christmas in Canada. 

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Filed under 2011, Updates to the Wu Yuren Illegal Incarceration Case

“One In, One Out”: Human Rights Lawyer Li Fangping Detained

Wu’s Lawyer, Li Fangping, taken by authorities, too.

Human rights lawyer Li Fangping has been detained in Beijing, hours after the release of Teng Biao, in an apparent “revolving-door trick” designed to influence public perception of the . From Chinese Human Rights Defenders:

Around 5 pm local time on April 29, Beijing-based human rights lawyer (李方平) was kidnapped by unidentified individuals outside the offices of the health rights NGO Beijing Center, of which he is a legal advisor. Li was able to speak briefly with his wife, telling her, “I may be gone for a period of time… can’t talk more.” Further efforts to contact him have been unsuccessful, and his whereabouts are unknown.

The news of Li Fangping’s abduction comes on the heels of reports that prominent human rights lawyer (滕彪) was released earlier that afternoon after 70 days of enforced disappearance . ’s wife, who confirmed his return, said she could not comment on his health or any other details of his disappearance. While the timing of Teng’s release initially seemed to signal a positive response by the Chinese government to this week’s U.S.-China human rights dialogue, the disappearance of Li shortly thereafter quickly dampened any hope that pressure on human rights activists in China might be easing. These actions raise renewed questions about the limits of international pressure on the Chinese government, as well as the effectiveness of human rights dialogues.

“In recent months, and especially during this crackdown, we have seen that torture to enforce silence is becoming a frighteningly common experience for those disappeared or detained,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s International Director. “The Chinese authorities, in the meantime, are resorting to an old trick, the revolving-door approach—one in, one out—to create the impression that things are improving.”

Li Fangping is a prominent Beijing-based human rights lawyer who in recent years has represented a number of high-profile victims of political and religious persecution, including, among others, , (杨春林), (胡佳), and (赵连海). He has faced frequent harassment from officials, and, on December 27, 2006, was severely beaten and suffered head injuries after he and another lawyer were assaulted en route to visit in a Shandong Prison.

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China’s human rights crackdown – interactive guide – click and read!

China’s human rights crackdown – interactive guide

Chinese authorities have made their biggest move against dissidents and activists for years, including artist Ai Weiwei. The crackdown followed an anonymous online call for protests inspired by Middle Eastern uprisings, although it is unclear if any of those held or missing were connected to the appeal. Information is from human rights groups and inquiries by the Guardian

China’s detained and missing

Liu Xiaoyuan (Beijing)

Rights lawyer who has worked with Ai Weiwei and was willing to represent him again. Unreachable since 8pm on 14 April, when he posted a message saying he was being followed. Police have not responded to queries

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Report from ‘Sit In’ Outside Chinese Consulate, Manhattan, NY

A view of some of the many protesters at the Ai Weiwei protest in New York City (all photos by author)

At 1 pm EST today near the Chinese embassy in Manhattan, out by the water at 520 Twelfth Avenue, a congregation of chairs gathered. Members of the city’s art world, community members and human rights activists came out in force, to the tune of a few hundred, to protest for the release of Ai Weiwei, the internationally-famed artist who has been detained by the Chinese government for the past two weeks without charge.

Located in a fenced-off area just off the water, protesters staged a sit-in in homage to Ai’s 2007 piece “Fairytale,” which saw the artist bring 1,000 Chinese to Kassel, Germany and let them loose during a major art exhibition. Within the tent that formed the Chinese travelers’ dorms, Ai installed 1,001 Ming and Qing dynasty chairs. This protest, named “1,001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei,” didn’t quite match the scale of the original, but artists and activists alike used the gesture, plus an array of homemade signs, to send a statement in support of Ai Weiwei. As Anne Pasternak of Creative Time (who organized the protest) said to the crowd, “Our goal is to keep the story alive.” By keeping the problem of Ai’s detention in the public eye, mounting pressure is put on the Chinese government to clarify the artist’s situation.

Sadly, while I was present, protesters didn’t have access to the embassy itself. Anne Pasternak was seen negotiating with police and mayoral staff to get seated protesters in front of the nondescript building for a final photo-op, but the process seemed difficult.

What was meant as a gesture in support of the artist was also crowded by the political nature of the protest — past the main body of art world community members was a blue-hatted crew of representatives from the Democratic Party of China, a vehemently anti-government group who were heard shouting about how Mao Zedong and Communism destroyed China. Some protesters wanted to march, to the chanted tune of “Free Ai Weiwei,” but they didn’t get far: the protest area was small and largely fenced in. Others, who I felt most in tune with, were content to sit peacefully.

Other protests for Ai Weiwei took place all over the world today, at Chinese embassies in Berlin as well as a very small contingent in Washington DC. As we get word of more protest actions, we’ll update this post. For now, check out the New York City crew below.

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Protesters bring chairs to the Chinese embassy at 520 Twelfth Avenue.

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A phrase similar in characters and sound to Ai Weiwei’s own name, “Love the Future,” or “Ai Wei Lai,” has become a way to bypass Chinese censorship for netizens.

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One of the protest’s youngest members, his sign reads, “Free Ai Weiwei.”

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A single chair left behind from protesters as some began to march back and forth, chanting slogans.

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The larger body of protesters were content to stake out their ground and sit peacefully on the chairs they brought.

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The one canine member of the protest sports a shirt saying, “Panda bears will be next.”

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This sign says “Indict or release,” which I thought was one of the most realistic statements made at the protest. The Chinese government still hasn’t stated what Ai is actually charged with or under arrest for.

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The Democratic Party of China protesters stuck to the rear of the seated crowd. They held up signs and shouted “Free Ai Weiwei,” “Free China,” and “Free Liu Xiaobo” (another jailed dissident). For the group, Ai’s case was implicated within bigger issues they have with the Chinese authorities.

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The Democratic Part of China holds up a banner at the rear of the crowd.

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Protesters hold up signs and chairs.

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The protesting group was blockaded by police cars. Police made sure that the demonstration didn’t interfere with the large bike lane or the sidewalk.

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The protest was meant to take place in front of the Chinese embassy, but the protest was relegated to a position across the street. The embassy was closed today, so the area was eerily silent.

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Anne Pasternak of Creative Time, the organization that planned the protest action in support of Ai Weiwei.

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Anne Pasternak speaks to the protesting group after trying to negotiate a change in position with police and mayoral staff.

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Protesters brought all kinds of chairs, from old to new, stools to wicker furniture.

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New York Magazine (and Facebook) art critic Jerry Saltz joined the protest for a short time, holding up a tiny model of an easy chair given to him by a protesting artist. His shirt references the artist Rikrit Tiravanija’s very hip latest show at Gavin Brown gallery. It reads, “Fear eats the soul.” He bolted right after this photo op.

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The protesters, seen looking towards the Chinese embassy.

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Tagged as: 1001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei, Ai Weiwei, Anne Pasternak, Chinese Art, Creative Time, Jerry Saltz, politics, protests

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Ai Weiwei arrest: Chinese lawyer and designer are latest to disappear

Crackdown on dissent continues with apparent detention by authorities in China of two more associates of activist-artist

People in Hong Kong walk past street stencils of detained Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei

People in Hong Kong walk past street stencils of detained Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei. The words ‘Who’s afraid of Ai Weiwei’ are painted underneath. Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP

A lawyer linked to Ai Weiwei went missing on Thursday night and a designer from the company handling the artist’s affairs was taken by police six days ago, according to supporters.

Friends have not been able to reach Liu Xiaoyuan for almost 24 hours. The rights lawyer posted a message on a microblog at 8pm on Thursday saying he was being “followed by identified people”. His phone is switched off.

Last week he said he would “of course” act for Ai if requested. He spent several hours at a police station on the day Ai disappeared, although his brief detention did not appear to relate to the artist. It occurred after he requested to visit a female activist and officers reportedly berated him for tweeting about another missing lawyer.

Separately, a letter issued online on Friday said plainclothes police seized designer Liu Zhenggang, 49, at his home in Beijing on 9 April and no one had been able to reach him since. Liu worked for FAKE, the design and architecture firm that handles Ai’s affairs and belongs to the artist’s wife.

Police did not respond to queries about the two men.

Ai’s detention has sparked an international outcry, and his case is far from alone. The last two months have seen dozens of lawyers, dissidents and activists being criminally detained and arrested or simply going missing in one of the toughest crackdowns for years. It appears to have been sparked by anonymous calls on websites overseas for “jasmine revolution” protests inspired by the Middle East uprisings.

Ai was stopped at Beijing airport on 3 April and has been incommunicado ever since. Officials have said he is under investigation for economic crimes but police have still not informed his family that he is detained.

Also missing are his friend Wen Tao, 38; driver and cousin Zhang Jinsong, also known as Xiao Pang, 43; and accountant Hu Mingfen, 55.

An open letter to the ministry of public security and Beijing police, signed by Ai’s wife, Lu Qing, as well as colleagues and relatives of the missing, urged an investigation into the disappearances. The Guardian was unable to reach Lu but a friend of Ai’s posted a link to the letter and a studio assistant confirmed it was genuine.

“The people … all disappeared or got kidnapped in a very short period of time and we request that the public security bureau investigate the matter. We are deeply concerned about the situation Ai Weiwei and his colleagues are in now,” the letter said.

“Kidnapping citizens or making them disappear is a severe crime and it immensely hurts people, relatives and friends around them.

“We believe justice can only exist if every administrative procedure is carried out in accordance with the law. Otherwise any conclusion or result that’s been drawn does not hold water … We hope that the public security bureau can act according to the law and protect people’s rights.”

Reuters reported that a third person had been sent to re-education through labour after taking pictures of police officers at a site proposed for a “jasmine revolution” protest on 6 March.

Wang Yuqin said her husband Yang Qiuyu, 48, a campaigner for the rights of petitioners, was seized by police at Xidan in Beijing.

She said she would hire a lawyer and sue authorities for sending him to a labour camp without trial. “They want to use labour camps to crush dissent,” she said.

Rights groups say that lawyer Ni Yulan, who was taken by police a few days ago, has been criminally detained for “creating a disturbance”. A person close to her, who did not want to be named, told Reuters: “She has nothing to do with it [the “jasmine revolution” call] … She was very careful about not getting involved.

“The innocent are being taken away. It’s getting more and more terrifying out there.”

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institution warned in a statement: “An expanding catalogue of abductions by the Chinese authorities [is creating] a climate of fear. The IBAHRI calls on the Chinese government to release all illegally detained human rights lawyers; cease all forms of harassment of the same; and to make a public statement on the whereabouts of ‘disappeared’ lawyers, the reasons for their arrest and their treatment in detention.”

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This is crazy, does that mean now that Ai Weiwei is without a lawyer? The only lawyer I could think of with enough teeth and guts to agree to his case was Liu Xiaoyuan … now what?

Stay tuned.

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Update on Wu Yuren: Authorities Order Wu to Return home for ‘R&R’

Since his parole release on April 3rd, Wu Yuren has spent over a week and a half with his daughter in Beijing, while meeting with the authorities once a week, handing over his passport, and keeping a very low profile.

However, Wu left last night on a train to Jiangsu province to visit his family for 14 days, as ordered by the authorities in charge of his case.

Stay tuned.

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Please Remember WEN Tao, my assistant, who also disappeared April 3rd, 2011

Wen Tao, a very good friend and helpful assistant to Ai Weiwei, was an extremely helpful and supportive member of the Wu Yuren PR/communications team that was assembled shortly after Wu ‘s disappearance and detention, from June 2010 until very recently.  Unfortunately, he was also detained and disappeared on April 3rd, 2011 from a studio in the Caochangdi area of Beijing, as no one has heard from or seen him since. Wen was responsible for translating from Chinese/English and English/Chinese almost all documents that were put on line regarding Wu Yuren’s case last year and into this year.

I was very sad to hear of his detention/disappearance, as Wen Tao was the first one I wanted to announce Wu’s parole to on the afternoon of April 3rd, 2011.

Wen Tao, 38 years old from Sichuan, is a journalist by training, who used to work for the Sports Illustrated, China, and then with the Global Times, Beijing. He was ‘asked to leave’ his Global Times posting in 2010 after covering the 008 March on Chang’an Jie, in February 2010.  Wen Tao has previously lived and worked in Canada.

Best wishes to his family and friends, and hope for a speedy location and release.

Wen Tao, characteristically a smiley guy by nature.

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