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Li Guotao


Leaflet 4





Those brave enough to stand up for human rights in China are well aware of the risks they run. Human rights activists have been detained without trial for years on end, imprisoned for long periods after grossly unfair trials and ill-treated until their health, if not their spirits, are broken.

Intensified repression of human rights defenders has followed the defeat of popular movements for reform. In the late 1970s the "Democracy Wall" movement gave rise to human rights groups, one of which, the Chinese Human Rights Alliance, was obliterated when all its members were arrested.

The pro-democracy movement a decade later led to the growth of groups advocating respect for human rights. The crackdown on pro-democracy protesters after the Beijing massacre of June 1989 again saw the systematic arrest and imprisonment of human rights activists.

Further attempts to register human rights groups in 1993 and 1994 were similarly crushed.


"In recent years, cases of violations of human rights and damage to the Chinese constitution and law have increased and are spreading to the judiciary itself."

These are the words of prisoner of conscience Li Guotao, one of the courageous men and women prepared to speak out for human rights in China. The words come from a statement he made when he applied to the Shanghai police for permission to hold a demonstration in May 1994. Far from being granted permission, Li Guotao was arrested and given a three-year sentence of forced labour.

Li Guotao, a businessman with a computer company, is Chairman of the Shanghai Human Rights Association. This group has existed informally since 1978 and at times has claimed more than 100 supporters. Li Guotao, like other members of the group, served a prison sentence for his role in the 1989 pro-democracy movement. In his case the term was two years.

The Shanghai Human Rights Association tried to gain legal registration in 1993, but this was refused by the Shanghai municipal authorities. In October 1993 Li Guotao was detained and reportedly badly beaten by police before being released.

Undeterred, he continued to campaign for human rights. In March 1994 the group addressed a petition, signed by 54 people, to the authorities calling for constitutional and human rights reforms. In May he was arrested once more. At least eight other members of the Human Rights Association were arrested in May and June 1994.

In September 1994 Li Guotao was sentenced without charge or trial to three years' "re-education through labour". "Re-education through labour" is a system which allows the police and political authorities to jail opponents without having to justify their detention before a court of law.


Victims of human rights violations in China are numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Torture is endemic. So is ill-treatment. Thousands of political prisoners are in jail, after trials at which the verdict was decided in advance. Countless numbers of people are held in administrative detention without being charged. Each year thousands of people are sentenced to death. In 1994 Amnesty International recorded three times as many executions in China as in the rest of the world put together.

No one is safe in China. Repressive legislation and the widespread abuse of power mean that everyone not just political dissidents is at risk. Some violations are committed with the full backing of the law; others, such as torture, continue in breach of the law.

China has undergone an economic revolution in recent times. This has significantly improved the quality of life for many people. However, economic reforms have not been matched by reform of a legal system that fosters gross human rights violations.

Dissent and any activity perceived as a threat are repressed. Independent human rights organizations in China are suppressed. International human rights organizations are not permitted to investigate abuses in China.

China's leaders stress the need to expand international cooperation as a step towards solving the world's problems. Such cooperation must be extended to human rights issues. China was one of the governments which adopted, by consensus, the Vienna Declaration of the 1993 United Nations World Conference on Human Rights. The Declaration reaffirms that "the promotion and protection of all human rights is a legitimate concern of the international community". The world cannot ignore a fifth of its population just because they happen to live within China's borders.

The case of Li Guotao, described in this leaflet, illustrates the human rights violations suffered by thousands likehim. Taking action on behalf of Li Guotao is a step towards ending human rights violations in China. Write to the address on the left and ask for his immediate and unconditional release. Join Amnesty International today.

Send your letters to: Xu Kuangdi, Shizhang, (Mayor of the Shanghai Municipal People's Government), Shanghaishi Renmin Zhengfu, 30 Fuzhoulu, Shanghaishi 200002, People's Republic of China.

For more information, contact Amnesty International in your country or write to: Amnesty International, International Secretariat, 1 Easton Street, London WC1X 8DJ, United Kingdom.

AI Index: ASA 17/86/95

(12/02/2004 12:46)

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