The Chinese government is continuing its crackdown on pro-democracy activism.

Chinese police recently detained two activists who wanted to hold a human rights forum in Wuhan. Chen Zhonghe and Xiao Shicheng are associated with the China Democracy Party. According to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China, the two men were arrested on their way to a meeting with a foreign television reporter.

Over the past year, the idea of political reform has been openly debated in China. But so far, every effort to organize independent political parties has been squelched by the government. People involved in such efforts have been detained for days or weeks and prevented from meeting and organizing. In December and January, several prominent Chinese human rights activists were sentenced to long prison terms because of their non-violent attempts to organize a political opposition.

The actions of the Chinese government run counter to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China signed last October but has not yet ratified. Among other things, this United Nations document says that, "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention." It also guarantees freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the right "to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives."

It is ironic that the detained activists, Chen Zhonghe and Xiao Shicheng, planned to discuss the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights at their human rights forum. They hoped that the discussion would help persuade China's National People's Congress to ratify the covenant at its meeting next month. Ratification would certainly be welcomed. But actions speak louder than words.

There is a simple way for the Chinese government to show its commitment to civil and political rights: release pro-democracy activists arrested for non-violent attempts to take part in the conduct of public affairs.