Authorities Raid Office Of Chinese Health Activist

From AP:

Chinese authorities seized dozens of newsletters from a nonprofit group that fights discrimination against people with hepatitis B, a campaigner said Thursday, calling the move retribution for the group’s advocacy work.

Two officials from the Beijing Cultural Law Enforcement Agency, in charge of campaigns against printed and DVD pornography and piracy, on Wednesday confiscated about 90 copies of a legal guide to fighting discrimination for people with hepatitis B.

A spokeswoman for the agency, Li Fei, confirmed the group was being investigated for publishing material without a required license. She would not comment further.

The 40-page guides, published by the Beijing non-governmental organization Yi Ren Ping, include information about Chinese law, a practical guide to reporting violations and filing lawsuits, as well as details about successful anti-discrimination cases, said Lu Jun, the group’s founder. He denied doing anything illegal.

See also a report from the the Christian Science Monitor blog about how this raid, coming on the heels of the shuttering of a prominent legal assistance group, may be part of a trend of cracking down on civil society organizations:

What the raids have in common is the targeting of groups that use legal recourse to stand up to state agencies. In the case of Yi Ren Ping (public welfare, kindness, equality), its focus is social justice and particularly antidiscrimination. It has filed lawsuits on behalf of people with Hepatitis B who face exclusion from school and work.

This was among the topics discussed in its bimonthly newsletter that caught the eye of the authorities. They told Lu Jun, the group’s coordinator, that he didn’t have a license to publish it. He argued that it wasn’t a commercial publication and didn’t need a license. In fact, only 100 or so are circulated.

While he was arguing his corner with the officials, he found time to pop into the next room in his small office to talk to reporters who had showed up after hearing about the raid. He told me that his campaigning had upset powerful people who wanted to take revenge on the group.

“The discrimination problem in China is very serious … the government should support our work. We’re doing what they’re not doing to help people,” he said.

July 29, 2009 8:01 PM
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Categories: Human Rights, Politics