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Shanghai Clearance Protesters Arrested Under SARS Precautions

May 1, 2003

For Immediate Release

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that under tight restrictions to prevent the spread of the SARS epidemic Shanghai authorities have detained 132 protesters from households affected by urban clearance.

The protest, which began at 12:30 in the afternoon on May 1 at the Shanghai Municipal Government offices on Kong Ping Road, was the latest episode in a protracted dispute between officials and residents of several neighborhoods forcibly cleared for redevelopment.

According to sources in Shanghai, the protesters, including Chen Wanying, Chen Baoliang, Zhang Gongyuan, Li Jianyong, Sun Dongming and Wang Qiaojuan, were shouting slogans such as, “SARS is frightening, but forced removal is even more frightening,” and “SARS is terrible, but dictatorship is even more terrible.”

After about half an hour, more than 200 Public Security Police sealed off the area, rounded up the protesters and loaded them into two buses. Protesters who arrived later were dispersed from the scene by police. The arrested protesters were sent later that night to police stations in 14 different districts. One protester, Zheng Wanfeng, managed to telephone his family on his cell phone and tell them not to expect him home that night. At the time of issue of this press release, none of the arrested protesters had yet been released, nor had any of their family members been notified of their detention.

In an effort to contain the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), major Chinese cities have been canceling or restricting large public gatherings, and individual members of the public have often voluntarily restricted their own activities to an even greater extent.

“The fact that these protesters risked the possibility of contracting a dangerous disease shows the extent of their desperation and determination to achieve an acceptable resolution to this long-standing conflict,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “It would be regrettable if the authorities were using public health as a mere pretext for stifling this protest.”

HRIC calls for Shanghai authorities to use negotiation rather than detention and intimidation to reach an acceptable resolution with families affected by urban clearance.

For more information, contact:
Stacy Mosher (English) 212-268-9074
Liu Qing (Chinese) 212-239-4495