Mr. Kong from Shandong is an activist who was sentenced to 18 months of “re-education through labor” in May for attempting to provide help to families of jailed rights lawyers. He suffered a heart attack while in detention and was released on medical parole in late August. He has called all RFA Call-in shows but said on “Listener Hotline” on Sept.9th:
“I was in detention for four months and unable to listen to RFA. Four months of not being able to hear the truth. Now that I am free I can listen again. Fortunate are those who can listen to RFA every day.”
RFA’s Mandarin service was the only media outlet to interview blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng upon his release from jail on Sept. 9. Chen, 38, helped expose widespread abuses by Linyi municipal government officials implementing strict population controls, including alleged forced abortion. He had served his full jail term of four years and three months despite repeated requests for medical parole. Chen told RFA that he had been beaten by fellow inmates early in his jail term, and that health problems still trouble him. Since his release, Chinese security personnel have blocked the entrance to Chen’s home, enforced a communication blackout, and had him under constant surveillance.
Chen called on the international community to protest his treatment by the Chinese government. “I am hoping that international organizations and people of conscience will react to this in a united manner,” he said. “If they can help me today, their actions will help another person tomorrow.” RFA’s report attracted the attention of Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), a senior member of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, who delivered a speech to the House of Representatives, calling for the end of Chen’s house arrest and mentioning RFA’s interview. RFA’s story of Chen’s release was also picked up by major news networks: AFP, Reuters, AP, MSNBC, and Japan Economic Newswire, all of which acknowledged RFA. AFP and AP admitted that they had tried but failed to reach Chen.
A reporter from RFA’s Hong Kong office spoke with Wu Yilong and Chen Shuqing, dissidents who were released from Hangzhou prison this month after serving an 11-year and a four-year sentence, respectively. Wu is a founding member of the banned opposition China Democracy Party and was imprisoned on charges of subversion for his influential role in setting up the Zhejiang branch of the CDP in 1998. During the phone interview, Wu Yilong, 43, recalled how he had used a seven-day hunger strike to gain the basic rights to read books and talk to other inmates. Wu said that police have warned him not to take part in any political activities once freed. However, he said he would not give up his pursuit of democracy for China.
RFA reported that Luo Yunfeng, a first-year student at the Longsheng No. 1 Middle School near Beiliu city in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, died suddenly on Sept. 15, just two days after receiving a measles vaccination. An official, who answered the phone at the Longsheng township government offices confirmed the recent death of a student at the Longsheng No. 1 Middle School. A teacher at the school said the immunization program had been halted at the school, pending investigation into Luo’s death. China’s pharmaceutical industry is highly lucrative but poorly regulated, resulting in a string of fatalities blamed on counterfeit or shoddy medications in recent years.
The Mandarin service reported that the Central District People’s Court in Leshan city in China’s southwestern province of Sichuan convicted 10 rights activists on charges of disturbing public order, handing down jail terms of up to three years in some cases. Their sentencing comes more than 18 months after they were detained for chaining themselves together in a protest outside the court in February 2009. The men were first tried for “assembling a crowd to disrupt social order” on April 7. However, their case was sent back to the local state prosecutor for more evidence.
Peter Zhong reported that more than 3,000 veterans of the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War from the Liuzhou region in the Guangxi Autonomous Region have been denied access to compensation for their service, though veterans from other regions have received funds for the time they served. The veterans have petitioned many times, but authorities at several levels have stonewalled, so a large-scale demonstration is planned. Peter interviewed several veterans, as well as local officials. (Return to Table of Contents)
A mudslide in Zhouqu, Gansu province, in August killed 1,478, according to official figures. Chinese authorities claimed the incident was a natural disaster, but many local villagers and activists blamed over-mining, deforestation, and poor dam construction. RFA’s Cantonese service aired a follow-up story a month after the landslide, reporting that about 500 villagers protested in front of the county’s government office for two days in mid-September. One villager told RFA, “Some experts came here to investigate and took away some evidence from the scene. They saw some walls of the dams with no concrete inside it, but they did not say a word about this.” (Return to Table of Contents)
Kim Jong Il’s third and youngest son has been named a four-star general ahead of North Korea’s largest ruling party meeting in decades, according to official state media. Kim Jong Eun, believed to be 27 years of age, was crowned Kim Jong Il’s successor at a Worker’s Party Conference in the nation’s capital Pyongyang. Kim Jong Il, 68, suffered a stroke in 2008 and varying reports about the state of his health suggest that the North Korean leader is pushing ahead with a succession process which eventually would give his son command of a 1.2 million man army.
The North Korean government has obtained metal detectors from China to search the homes of North Korean residents for CDs and DVDs containing South Korean television dramas, movie, and songs. North Korean sources told RFA’s Korean service that China gave the new equipment to authorities for use in cracking down on “crime” around the border area. The North Korean government has continued to block access to South Korean and western culture in North Korea in an effort to isolate its people from the outside world.
RFA reported that Hong Kong Chief Executive Sir Donald Tsang has expressed his office’s determination to pursue economic sanctions against North Korea, following a request by Japanese human rights activist Ken Kato to investigate a Hong Kong-registered company for its links to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. In an e-mail dated Sept. 1, Kato called for an investigation of Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd., which owns 70 percent of North Korea’s Daedong Credit Bank. The remaining percentage of the credit bank is owned by North Korea’s Daedong Bank which is operated by “Office 39,” the manager of a fund for the benefit of Kim Jong Il. RFA’s report was widely quoted by Korea’s major media, including Yonhap and MK News.
The Korean service learned from the Seoul-based North Korean People’s Liberation Front that North Korea’s National Security Council has discussed ways to disrupt the upcoming G-20 meeting in Seoul. The North Korean People’s Liberation Front, formed by ex-military North Korean refugees, quoted a high-ranking source in North Korea who went to Pyongyang to attend the Workers’ Party Conference. The source said that North Korea described the G-20 meeting as a “political contrivance” by the world’s financial powers. (Return to Table of Contents)
RFA’s Burmese service reported that soldiers gunned down two local youths in Bago, about 50 miles from Rangoon, following an argument. RFA spoke to the mother and an aunt of one of the youths.
The Burmese service interviewed a U.S.-based monk with the All Monks Alliance, who said that the group commemorated the third anniversary of the 2007 Saffron Revolution by distributing nearly 500 shortwave radios to people living in remote areas of Burma. To note last year’s anniversary, the group distributed 300 radios. The monk said that their goal is to keep people well-informed about what happened during the Saffron Revolution, about their movement’s activities, and about the upcoming election.
An Irrawaddy website spokesperson told RFA that foreign-based Burmese media websites, like Irrawaddy, Mizzima, and DVB (Democratic Voice of Burma), have recently come under a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. This tightening of control coincides with the third anniversary of the Saffron Revolution. According to the Irrawaddy spokesperson, the attack, which was technologically stronger than previous attacks, has been traced to Russia. He told RFA that this disruption would be short-term, but said that a similar attack in 2008 caused the Website to be down for three days. (Return to Table of Contents)
RFA’s Cambodian service reported that the Monks Community Forest (MCF) in Oddar Meanchey, headed by the Venerable Bun Saluth, was selected by the U.N. Development Programme as one of 25 winners of the Equator Prize. The award recognizes outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. More than 300 communities from 99 countries competed this year for the honor of being an Equator Prize winner.
The MCF, an 18,261 hectare stretch of evergreen forest in northwest Cambodia, was founded by monks of the Samraong Pagoda, who were given legal protection of the forest. To meet that goal, they have established patrol teams, demarcated forest boundaries, and raised environmental awareness among local communities. Their involvement has significantly reduced illegal logging activities in the area.
RFA reported that the village chief of Kang Meas commune cooperated with local merchants in digging up mangroves in the community to be transported to Vietnam for sale. The Cambodian government relies upon local authorities to help increase fish population through the protection of mangroves.
On Sept. 21, RFA also reported that an apparently coordinated protest by hundreds of farmers in six provinces took place at their respective provincial courts and individual provincial seats. The farmers demanded that land they lost to developers be returned. They also demanded that friends jailed as a result of the land dispute be freed. (Return to Table of Contents)
RFA’s Bangkok office reported that one of the first dam projects on the Mekong River, the Don Sahong project, faces formidable opposition in Laos and overseas. The Sahong channel is the only conduit for Mekong fish migration, and opponents of the project are concerned that damming the channel will eventually kill the fish population, harming the people whose food and livelihood come from fishing in the Mekong. (Return to Table of Contents)
RFA’s Vietnamese service reported the aftermath of an incident in Con Dau parish, when Catholic worshippers tried to bury a fellow parishioner in a cemetery which developers planned to take over. Parishioners were beaten by anti-riot police, and 40 people fled to Bangkok, where they now seek refugee status. The families of these parishioners are now being subjected to visits and intimidation by authorities, with police checking the residence registration cards of Catholics in central Vietnam.
Nguyen Thi Hai, a Catholic from Con Dau parish, said that after news about the Catholics seeking refuge in Thailand spread, authorities searching for her son began to harass her family. “The police came to our house five times one night. They knocked on the door. But only the women were at home; and we were so scared, we dared not open the door,” Nguyen said. Authorities have also been warning families to remain quiet about the events that led the parishioners to flee, Nguyen added.
Nguyen Ngoc Quang, a prominent Vietnamese activist based in Vietnam’s southern Ho Chi Minh City, was assaulted by police as he traveled to the home of a fellow dissident. Quang, 49, is a member of Bloc 8406, a coalition of political groups calling for democratic reform in Vietnam. He told RFA, “I received a message from a person in my group, telling me to bring them some documents. I left home with my son. We rode a motorcycle,” Quang said. “About 1.5 km from home, two Hondas approached me. One made me fall and the other ran me over.” Quang said he had been attacked before. “This kind of thing has happened to me four times since I was released from prison on Sept. 3, 2009,” Quang said.
RFA reported that the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) announced that it has been under pressure by the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs to cancel a press conference on human rights in Vietnam. The press conference was organized by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR). (Return to Table of Contents)
RFA’s Uyghur service reported that Chinese authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) have imposed travel restrictions on the region’s ethnic minorities since last year’s deadly rioting in Urumqi. “[Passport applications] must bear the seal of the nationalities and religious affairs committees before [applicants] are allowed to leave the country,” said an employee at the Xinjiang branch of the state-owned China Travel Service (CTS). An employee at a second major travel company in Urumqi said that they can only get passports for Han tourists now.
The Uyghur service reported on a policy in northwestern China banning women from wearing long dresses and covering their faces, and men from wearing beards. An anonymous source from Hankhatam village in southern Kucha county, where nine police officers were killed in an attack on July 9, said the crackdown intensified during the Muslim Ramadan holiday. “If women wear religious clothes like a full veil, they can’t go outside. Male plainclothes officers will take them into an office and take off their covers,” the source wrote in a text message. “Men must cut their beards.” Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, called on Chinese authorities to end the ban. “These restrictions are against Uyghur cultural traditions,” he said. (Return to Table of Contents)