German chancellor Angela Merkel began a three-day visit to China on Thursday amid a chorus of calls from activists seeking her help over alleged rights violations across the country.
Beijing-based rights activist Li Jinping called on Merkel to meet with her during the German leader’s trip, which will focus on reassuring Beijing over the eurozone debt crisis and on kickstarting talks on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
“I would like to raise some human rights issues with her,” Li said. “These aren’t individual problems, but suffering endured by all of our nation.”
“All Chinese people are suffering, in the knowledge that they could be arrested at any time,” said Li, who was detained in a psychiatric hospital for nine months and force-fed medication, a form of persecution against those who pursue complaints against the government which has been documented around China in recent years.
Petitioners based in the capital said they would try to gather outside the German embassy in Beijing during Merkel’s trip, to call on the international community to pay attention to the human rights situation.
“We definitely want to do this, but I can’t really talk to you about this on the phone,” said a Beijing-based petitioner surnamed Wang. “My phone is being monitored.”
“But we definitely want to go to fight for our rights, and tell her about our problems,” she said.
A petitioner from Shanghai surnamed Cai said the authorities had boosted police patrols around the municipal government complaints office on Wednesday, possibly in a bid to monitor petitioner behavior ahead of Merkel’s visit.
“Things are very tense over at the municipal government,” Cai said. “There are a lot of plainclothes cops and uniformed police deployed there.”
“I’m certain they are afraid that we’ll try to visit the Chancellor to demand our rights.”
Meanwhile, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, a prominent rights activist spoke out in support of local people battling the loss of their homes to developers in Suining city.
“Right now, there are more forced evictions happening in Suining than across the whole of Sichuan and indeed across the whole country,” said Huang Qi, founder of the Tianwang rights website.
“The Suining authorities are … taking over the farmers’ land as a way of boosting GDP and promoting industrial development,” Huang said, calling on Beijing to pay attention to the large number of forced evictions in the city.
“The problem of forced land grabs and evictions is very serious in Suining,” he said, citing a slew of “mass incidents” in the area in recent weeks.
A resident of Suining’s Xiaohezhou village surnamed Zhu said the local government had taken over a highly valuable piece of land in the village without the agreement of local people.
“The government has taken it over, and now they are trying to cover up the truth,” Zhu said. “They [did this by] designating it stony land that couldn’t be cultivated.”
While in Beijing, Merkel held talks with her Chinese counterpart, premier Wen Jiabao, and will hold meetings with President Hu Jintao and parliamentary chief Wu Bangguo.
She will also fly to Guangzhou before wrapping up her trip on Saturday.
Reported by Grace Kei Lai-see for RFA’s Cantonese service, and by Gao Shan for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.