Tuesday, June 2, 2009

China Dissident Held ahead of Protest Anniversary - Wu Gaoxing

The Irrawaddy News

BEIJING — A former Chinese political prisoner has been detained just days before the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, a human rights group said Tuesday.

Wu Gaoxing, a former educator in his late 60s, was detained Saturday at his home in the eastern city of Taizhou, shortly after the publication of a letter he had co-signed complaining about economic discrimination against dissidents, the New York-based Human Rights in China said in a news release.

The letter, addressed to President Hu Jintao and other top communist leaders, said former political prisoners are unable to find steady jobs and are deprived of medical benefits and pensions.

"If we get sick, we can only wait to die, and all this just because 20 years ago we were sentenced for political reasons," said the letter. The human rights group published the letter online at Wu's request, and an English translation was posted on the group's Web site.

Calls to Wu's mobile phone were met with a message saying it had been turned off, while phones at Taizhou State Security Bureau rang unanswered.

Authorities have tightened surveillance over China's dissident community ahead of Thursday's anniversary of the military's crushing of the Tiananmen Square protests, in which possibly thousands of students, activists and ordinary citizens were killed.

The government has never allowed an independent investigation nor offered a full accounting of its actions, and the crackdown itself remains a taboo subject in Chinese society.

Wu was among hundreds detained or imprisoned in the crackdown and was given a two-year sentence for having organized support for the protesters.

Overseas monitoring groups estimate that 30 men remain in prison on charges relating to the protests.

The prisoners—then mostly young workers at the time—were jailed for burning army trucks, stealing equipment or attacking soldiers as the military advanced toward student-led protesters on Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing.

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