Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned from sources in China that more than ten people involved in repeated protests against Shanghai’s redevelopment and relocation scheme will soon be sentenced to Reeducation Through Labor (RTL) on charges of “illegal assembly.”
The dozen or so protesters were among approximately 85 people rounded up by Shanghai police on September 29 while in Beijing for the purpose of petitioning the authorities over unjust conditions surrounding clearances and compensation of displaced residents. As previously reported by HRIC, since being forcibly returned to Shanghai some detainees have been subjected to acts of physical and psychological oppression in an effort to dissuade them from further protest on the redevelopment issue, while petitioners released from detention have also been subjected to various coercive tactics.
Hong Kong resident Shen Ting, who has been protesting on behalf of her Shanghai-based parents, has written an open letter to President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao appealing for their intervention with local authorities. (The letter is appended in full to the Chinese press release.) In her letter Shen praises the concern Hu and Wen have expressed for the rights and interests of ordinary people, but accuses local authorities of abuse of process, and complains that they ignore the directions of the central authorities with impunity. Shen calls on the central authorities to implement a specific plan of action to protect the rights of ordinary citizens and protect social stability.
HRIC wholeheartedly supports the demands included in the open letter. “Protecting ordinary citizens against abuse of process is a basic responsibility of the central government,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “It is appalling that people can be charged and sentenced for illegal assembly when they were doing nothing more than peacefully exercising their rights to petition the authorities. The Shanghai authorities should release all of the detained petitioners immediately.”