Rights group facing the worst crisis in its history

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 January, 2005, 12:00am

Three of the five directors have quit after failed attempt to unseat president

The most vocal critic of China's human rights record, the US-based Human Rights in China, is facing the biggest crisis in its 16-year history.

This follows the resignation of three of its five directors after a failed attempt to dislodge the group's president, Liu Qing .

Eight other members of the executive committee said they were considering whether to quit.

Scientist and dissident Fang Lizhi submitted his resignation on Monday following the departures of fellow directors Wang Yu and Xiao Qiang .

A group of executive committee members launched an attempt to remove Mr Liu, who has been at the helm of the New York-based watchdog for 13 years, when the organisation held its two-day annual board meeting at the weekend.

The group said he should step down, alleging conflicts of interest and mismanagement, a reference to the fact that Mr Liu was also chairman of at least two organisations which received funding from Human Rights in China, and allegations from former staff over his management of the organisation.

The group, which included some of the most respected Chinese activists and intellectuals overseas such as Guo Luoji, Liu Binyan, Su Xiaokang, Zhang Weiguo, Cheng Hsin-yuan, Huang Mab, Tsung Su and Wang Dan, also called for more transparency in the group's affairs and better monitoring of its work.

They asked for a revision of the watchdog's bylaws to abolish the post of president, and suggested creating a post of deputy executive director to strengthen work of the executive committee.

But they failed to include their demands on the meeting's agenda, with members supporting Mr Liu accusing them of engaging in 'personal persecution'.

Members who were critical of Mr Liu boycotted the second day of the meeting. In their absence, other members voted down a motion calling for him to resign.

One motion that was adopted will see the size of the executive committee reduced from 33 members to about 25.

An executive committee member said the committee should adopt an open-minded attitude to rectify its mistakes, instead of ignoring its problems.

'It really contradicts our original mission - [members who back Liu Qing] are becoming the oppressive regime they have shunned in the first place,' the member said.

When contacted by the South China Morning Post yesterday, Mr Fang, 68, confirmed that he had resigned from the watchdog, citing his age as the reason. He declined to comment on other issues.

Human Rights in China is one of the most established human rights groups dedicated to monitoring human rights on the mainland.

Mr Liu yesterday said last weekend's meeting was confidential and declined to comment further.