Campaign urges rights action

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 August, 2005, 12:00am

More than 250 people have signed an open letter urging a UN chief to press China to improve human rights and release political prisoners and activists.

Campaign organiser Li Jian said social unrest had nearly reached 'boiling point' on the mainland and human rights abuses were so common that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, should look into it during an expected visit this month.

'We feel that the weiquan [fighting for one's rights] situation is worsening, as shown by the growing number of riots, petitioning and 'mass incidents',' he said.

The open letter, which will be sent to Ms Arbour on Friday, highlighted problems such as the lack of an independent judiciary, a state-controlled press, the government's tight control of the internet and police violating suspects' human rights.

It called on Ms Arbour to look into the cases of writers, activists, and political and religious prisoners detained or jailed for fighting for people's rights. It included the cases of journalists, such as Zhao Yan who was a researcher for The New York Times in Beijing before his arrest, internet writer Shi Tao and former newspaper managers Yu Huafeng and Li Minying .

'The [abuse] cases are numerous and she [Ms Arbour] may not be able to take note of all of them so we only highlight a few here,' Mr Li said.

He acknowledged that resolving the human rights problems would be a long-term process, but the first step should be an independent judiciary and freedom of speech, including press freedom.

The letter had been circulated first through e-mails since August 4 and was posted on several websites yesterday. However, at least one website was blocked and the article on another website was removed half an hour after it was posted.

The signatories included intellectuals Liu Xiaobo and Yu Jie, Aids activist Wan Yanhai, and retired professor Sun Wenguang. Several family members of political detainees also signed the letter.