Petitioning Can Be Dangerous

Lin Ping

Reprint of New York Times article

March 19, 2012

Activist Said to Be Missing in

China

By DIDI KIRSTEN TATLOW

BEIJING —Liu Ping, a rights activist who has angered officials in China with her advocacy of free elections and support of labor and women’s rights issues, has been missing since early this month after she was detained in Beijing by security personnel from her hometown, according to an advocacy group.

Wang Songlian, a researcher at Chinese Human Rights Defenders, said Monday that Ms. Liu’s disappearance was most likely part of a wave of detentions tied to the meetings of China’s handpicked legislature, the National People’s Congress, and an advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. The meetings typically lead to detentions of people whom the authorities consider troublesome, in an attempt to stop those people from petitioning the government, the group said. The meetings ended last week.

Although the crackdown is an annual event, “in general the feeling is that this year is more serious than previous years,” with China facing its biggest leadership transition in a decade later this year, Ms. Wang said.

Ms. Liu, 47, who is from the city of Xinyu in the southern province of Jiangxi, sent two text messages to Chinese Human Rights Defenders on March 6, saying that she had been intercepted at a Beijing train station by a group of people working for her former employer, the state-owned Xinyu Iron and Steel Company, Ms. Wang said. Ms. Liu’s cellphone has been off since then, Ms. Wang said.

“I didn’t come to Beijing to petition, I came to find work!” one of the messages read, according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders. “They are ruthless, they are shutting me down economically! I have to put my daughter through university!”

Ms. Liu has petitioned the government in the past and she has been detained before, she said in interviews last month.

She campaigned last year as an independent candidate for a seat on Xinyu’s local congress but did not win. Her high-profile campaign helped inspire other independent candidacies around China, nearly all of which failed.

A man who answered the telephone Monday at Xinyu Steel’s Beijing offices, when asked about Ms. Liu’s disappearance, said there was “no such thing.” Pressed, he said a caller had dialed the wrong number and hung up. People who answered the phones at the Xinyu Public Security Bureau and the city’s detention center said they could not help with inquiries into Ms. Liu’s whereabouts.

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