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China tries to silence dissidents for Clinton visit

February 22, 2009

February 21, 2009

BEIJING (AFP) — Chinese dissidents said on Saturday police had tried to
silence them during Hillary Clinton's visit, as the US secretary of
state defended her remarks about not pushing China's leaders on human

Rights activists reported being placed under house arrest, harassed and
intimidated in an effort to stop them speaking out during Clinton's trip
to China, the final leg of her four-nation Asian tour.

"I am under house arrest because Hillary Clinton came," Zeng Jinyan, one
of China's most prominent dissidents and wife of jailed activist Hu Jia,
told AFP via an Internet message.

The Chinese Human Rights Defenders group also said that a number of
dissidents had been put under residential surveillance, questioned and
followed by Beijing police during Clinton's 40-hour visit that began
late Friday.

Their comments came after Clinton said she would ensure the sensitive
issue of human rights did not jeopardise her efforts to seek cooperation
with China's communist leaders on major issues of global concern.

"Successive administrations and Chinese governments have been poised
back and forth on these (rights) issues and we have to continue to press
them," Clinton told reporters in Seoul just before leaving for Beijing.

"But our pressing on those issues can't interfere on the global economic
crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis."

Clinton's comments triggered a fierce reaction from human rights groups
around the world, with Amnesty International saying it was "shocked and
extremely disappointed".

"The United States is one of the only countries that can meaningfully
stand up to China on human rights issues," said T. Kumar, Asia advocacy
director with Amnesty International USA.

Clinton's visit comes at a particularly sensitive time for China's
leadership, with a series of controversial anniversaries looming.

March 10 marks 50 years since a failed uprising in Tibet against Chinese
rule that led to the Dalai Lama fleeing his homeland. The Tibetan
government-in-exile says the Chinese army killed 87,000 people in the

And on June 4 it will be 20 years since the so-called Tiananmen Massacre
when Chinese troops crushed democracy protests in Beijing, leaving
hundreds, if not thousands, dead.

Zeng, 25 and with a young daughter, said security police monitoring her
at her Beijing apartment told her she would not be allowed outside on

In a blog posting, Zeng wrote that she had intended on Saturday to meet
Gao Yaojie, an AIDS activist from central China who was due to arrive in
Beijing ahead of a planned meeting with Clinton on Sunday.

"I was very angry. I even cursed... but I breathed deeply and called my
friend to send Gao to the hotel, and then I fed my baby," Zeng said.

In her comments to AFP, Zeng said it was important that people inside
and outside China maintained their efforts to promote human rights.

The Chinese Human Rights Defenders said police had also told Jiang
Qisheng, a Tiananmen activist previously jailed for his pro-democracy
work, not to meet with Clinton.

The group named other activists it said had been harassed and were
notable for signing Charter 'O8, a petition released last year calling
for political reform in China that authorities in Beijing are apparently
furious over.

After meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, Clinton defended
herself against accusations she had betrayed the human rights cause by
treading softly on the issue with China's leaders.

She told reporters she had raised human rights issues with Yang, as she
had done with other leaders during her previous stops in Japan,
Indonesia and South Korea over the past week.

"I have said the promotion of human rights is an essential aspect of US
global foreign policy. I have raised the issue on every stop on this
trip and I have done so here in my conversations with the foreign
minister," she said.

Clinton met President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao later on Saturday.
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