July 23, 2008 / 2:08 AM / 11 years ago

China arrests online dissident in pre-Olympics crackdown

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have arrested a prominent Internet dissident for violating his probation terms, a rights group said, as the country steps up a pre-Olympic crackdown on dissent to ensure the Games go smoothly.

Customers use computers inside an Internet cafe in Changzhi, Shanxi province April 25, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer

Du Daobin, from the central province of Hebei, was given a suspended sentence for subversion in 2004 having been detained by police in Wuhan for posting online essays in support of fellow dissident, Liu Di.

Du was then released into house arrest, Reporters Without Borders said in an emailed statement, but was arrested this week having been accused of posting articles on overseas websites and receiving guests without permission.

“Du was living under a permanent threat,” the group said. “He could have been imprisoned at any time under the sentence he received more than four years ago. He is the third leading cyber-dissident to be imprisoned in the run-up to the Olympic Games, after Hu Jia and Huang Qi.”

Chinese police arrested Huang in the country’s southwest for “possession of state secrets” after he offered help to parents of children killed in the Sichuan earthquake in May.

Hu, a prominent AIDS activist, was jailed for 3-½ years earlier this year for inciting subversion and criticizing the ruling Communist Party.

A fourth dissident, Ye Guozhu, jailed in 2004 for organizing protests against forced evictions, was due for release on Saturday but he was taken from the prison where he was being held and his whereabouts were unknown, Chinese Human Rights Defenders said.

“We believe that the police took him away to silence him during the Games, and that he will not be released until after the Olympics when most foreign journalists will have left Beijing,” the group quoted his brother, Ye Guoqiang, as saying.

Ye Guoqiang said police told him they had taken Ye Guozhu from the prison, but did not say where he was being held or for how long.

Human Rights in China said the government was using the slogan of a “peaceful Olympics” to target rights activists.

“The current state of affairs is intolerable,” said the group’s China executive director, Sharon Hom, in a statement.

“Under the banner of a ‘peaceful Olympics,’ authorities continue to employ contradictory and counterproductive security methods, which only serve to exacerbate the human rights crisis and provoke greater instability in China,” she added.

The government says the charges of a pre-Olympic campaign against dissidents are groundless.

Last week, the official Xinhua news agency quoted an unnamed Games’ spokesman as saying the Olympics were actually improving China’s human rights record, and defended security measures.

“To ensure the hosting of a successful Olympic Games, and to ensure the safety of foreign athletes and visitors, China has indeed taken a series of necessary, legitimate and reasonable security measures,” the spokesman said.

“lt’s unnecessary to arrest so-called ‘dissidents’ for the sake of the Olympic Games. The accusation is untrue.”

Still, the swirl of bad publicity in the run-up to the Games, which open on August 8, appears not to have dampened Chinese people’s enthusiasm, though censorship means little foreign criticism is reported domestically.

More than 90 percent of Chinese surveyed by the Pew Research Center’s Pew Global Attitudes Project said they thought the Olympics would help China’s global image, and almost everyone thought the Games would be a success.

Additional reporting by Lindsay Beck; Editing by Nick Macfie

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