Two mainland activists who were detained by police after taking part in the July 1 rally in Hong Kong and petitioning in Beijing were sentenced to one-year terms in a labour camp in Jiangxi yesterday.
Song Ningsheng and Zeng Jiuzi, who took part in the annual march in Hong Kong, were detained in a police station in Ningdu county, Jiangxi, after petitioning in Beijing over the deaths of their spouses in unauthorised hospitals, a Hong Kong-based rights group said.
Liu Weiping, chairman of the People's Rights Union of China, said several PRUC members had broken through security measures and got into the police station to demand their release yesterday
'The police officers threatened them and said the man and woman had been sentenced to one year in a labour camp for feifang,' he said.
Liu said feifang could be an abbreviation for terms meaning illegal petitioning or abnormal petitioning, and only the former was against the law. But Liu was not told which type of petitioning was involved, nor the location of the labour camp.
Cheng Jinshan, the public security bureau chief of Ningdu county, said: 'I was having a meeting in a different place; I know nothing about this incident.'
Meanwhile, blind activist Li Guizhi, 57, who fled a 'black jail' - a hotel room in Hebei - where she was held after mainland authorities refused to let her enter Hong Kong to attend the July 1 rally and hold a press conference, was still being transferred to a safe place yesterday.
Li has been petitioning for an investigation into the suspicious death of her son since 2006. He was a police officer who was believed to have been killed after learning of his colleagues' involvement with the drug trade. Officials said he died in a traffic accident, but Li does not accept this.
Liu also revealed two confidential documents from the security bureau of Hebei and Jiangsu dated 2007 and 2008. The Hebei document said petitioning in the Tiananmen Square and Zhongnanhai areas, the residential area where state leaders live, and the foreign consular offices area was considered illegal.
The Jiangsu document said those petitioning in groups or during ceremonial events in Beijing needed to receive 'legal education'. Sit-ins, chanting slogans and waving banners while petitioning were considered 'radical' actions and would be punished.
Liu hoped the issue could be raised in the US-China Human Rights Dialogue, now being held in Washington. Scott Robinson, spokesman for the US consulate in Hong Kong, said freedom of religion and expression, labour rights and other human rights issues would be raised during the dialogue.
The estimated number of 'Re-education through labour' (laojiao) camps on the mainland, according to China Daily in 2007