By MICHAEL WINES and ANDREW JACOBS
BEIJING — With the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement approaching, government security agents have detained a noted Chinese dissident after he complained openly about the treatment of former political prisoners, human rights groups said Tuesday.
Protesters march to the government office in Hong Kong Sunday, May 31, 2009 to mark the 20th anniversary of the military crackdown on a pro-democracy student movement in Beijing. Large throngs of Hong Kong march on Sunday in protest of China's suppression of pro-democracy protesters at Beijing's Tiananmen Square 20 years ago, in one of the few public commemorations of the crackdown on Chinese soil. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
The dissident, Wu Gaoxing, was seized Saturday at his home in Taizhou, a coastal city south of Shanghai, according to the New York advocacy group Human Rights in China. Mr. Wu was among five men, all once jailed for their roles in the Tiananmen movement, who released a letter last weekend charging that former prisoners have been targeted for economic hardship long after their prison terms ended.
Human Rights in China said that Mr. Wu was taken away and his computer confiscated abut an hour after the letter addressed to President Hu Jintao and other senior leaders, became public.
Mr. Wu, a writer and former educator, is in his 60s. He was jailed for two years in 1989 after he joined protests in his home province of Zhejiang against the June 4 military crackdown on Tiananmen demonstrators in Beijing. “In this society that claims to be harmonious, we have become ‘citizens of the three have-nots waiting to die’: we have no regular jobs, no pensions, and no health insurance; if we get sick, we can only wait to die, and all this just because 20 years ago we were sentenced for political reasons,” the letter states.
The men, among them a former Communist Party member and a factory worker, said they have been denied pensions, health care and regular employment since taking part in local rallies that were inspired by the protests in Beijing.
One, Mao Guoliang, 51, a teacher, said he has been fired from 17 schools since he served a four-year term for “counter-revolutionary activities.” His crime, he said, was posting seven poems he wrote that lionized the student protesters. Mr. Mao has not been detained.
The status of the other three, Chen Longde, Wang Donghai and Ye Wenxiang, all from Zhejiang Province, could not be immediately determined.
The Chinese government has taken extraordinary steps in advance of the Tiananmen anniversary to avert protests and any other public displays related to the military crackdown. Censorship of the Internet, television and printed matter, already strict, has been increased, and human rights groups say that a number of well-known political dissidents have been detained, apparently until Thursday’s anniversary has passed.
Among them is Zhou Dou, 62, a former sociology professor and Tiananmen veteran who spent a year in detention. Mr. Zhou has staged an annual hunger strike and sent letters to Beijing authorities demanding that they reevaluate their decision to use violence against the movement’s unarmed protesters. In an interview, he said that because of his efforts, he had lost his job and has been unable to find regular employment ever since. His phones are tapped, he said, and he is often followed when he leaves his apartment.
“Everywhere I go, a few steps in front of me is an invisible wall I can’t go around,” he said. “The only thing I’ve done these past 20 years was reflect on what happened during that time.” The police detained Mr. Zhou on Saturday, shortly after he was interviewed by a reporter.
“Before June 4, I was never involved in anything political and I could have never imagined myself a dissident,” he said during the interview. “But now that I am on this track, I can’t get off.”Human Rights Watch
estimates that about 30 of the hundreds who were imprisoned after the Tiananmen protests remain in jail. It and other groups have asked the government to grant those prisoners early release on humanitarian grounds.