Human Rights in China has learned that housing rights petitioners Shen Yongmei and Zhou Minwen have finally been sent home after being illegally detained with the complicity of local police. In an apparent move to suppress petitioning activities, Shen and Zhou, along with thousands of other petitioners, were rounded up ahead of the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai (October 2–11) and the 17th Party Congress in Beijing (October 15–21).
Shen told Human Rights in China that on September 16, she was illegally detained by local police and employees from the Shanghai Wuxin Real Estate Removal and Resettlement Company (“Wuxin Company”), which had forcibly evicted her and torn down her home in 2003. A police officer from the Ruijin Police Station, Luwan District Public Security Bureau, Shanghai, and two Wuxin Company employees detained Shen and brought her to Wuxin Company offices on Fuxing Middle Road. At the office, Shen said that a director ordered his subordinates to slap Shen’s face. Shen was then transferred to another of the company’s offices on Ruijin No.1 Road, where she was detained for 44 days and subjected to further abuse.
Shen said she was kicked by a Wuxin Company employee for staging a hunger strike on September 16. On September 27, two police officers from the Ruijin Police Station told Shen that she was being held so that she would not petition during the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games, which closed on October 11. However Shen was not released until October 29, which also followed the close of the 17th Party Congress that ended on October 21. The police officers reportedly told her she was detained on orders from higher authorities.
One week after Shen’s release, on November 5, several employees from Wuxin Company went to her home and told her that they would continue to monitor her so she could not travel to Beijing to petition. They also told her that their wages were linked to preventing Shen’s petitioning activities.
Another petitioner, Zhou Minwen, was detained on September 24, when several unidentified people jumped out of a taxi and dragged her to a location near Luwan District on Zhao Jiabang Road. There, she was held in a small room with no windows or heat despite the cooler weather. During that time, numerous individuals, including one Zhu Zhuan, were sent to guard her. Around October 15, two individuals who identified themselves as from the Justice Bureau came and demanded that she sign some legal documents, which she refused. She was finally released on October 30.
Both Shen Yongmei and Zhou Minwen are longtime petitioners. Zhou began petitioning after her family’s forcible eviction on November 29, 2002, and has previously been held under house arrest and detained. Shen Yongmei has petitioned against urban redevelopment programs in Shanghai since 2003. On January 9, 2003, her home was torn down by Wuxin Company, without warning and without any agreement or compensation for Shen. Shen has been detained several times in the past, as recently as November 2006.
HRIC condemns the illegal detentions of Shen Yongmei and Zhou Minwen, apparently with the complicity of the local police, in violation of both international and Chinese law. “These are two more examples of detentions of Chinese citizens lawfully engaged in petitioning the government,” said HRIC Executive Director Sharon Hom. “The ongoing round-ups and detentions serve as a cautionary tale for what will likely happen in the lead-up to the 2008 Olympic Games. Human Rights in China urges the international community to send a strong message of support for peaceful protest.”
For further information on Shen Yongmei, see: