Join our Mailing List

"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

China environmentalist released after prison term for what he says were trumped up charges

May 19, 2010

BEIJING (AP) — A leading Chinese environmentalist has been released after serving a three-year prison sentence on what he says were trumped up charges of blackmailing polluting businesses.

Wu Lihong was named by China's legislature as one of the country's top 10 environmentalists in 2005 for his work documenting pollution in Lake Tai, China's largest freshwater lake. He was arrested in April 2007 on what his wife and friends say were charges concocted by local officials embarrassed by his whistle-blowing activities.

Speaking by telephone Wednesday from his home in the eastern city of Yixing, Wu maintained his innocence and said he had been singled out for severe punishment while in prison.

He said he has been resting to recover his health since his April 12 release, and plans to continue his long-term project of monitoring pollution in Lake Tai.

"I have nothing to fear. It is those people who violated the law who should fear," Wu said.

Wu was convicted of extorting $7,380 from businesses by threatening to expose how they were polluting the environment.

For more than 15 years, he collected water samples from Lake Tai in eastern China and submitted reports on its worsening condition.

Within weeks of his arrest, a massive algae bloom on the lake forced the cutoff of water to millions and prompted China's central government to order closures of chemical plants that drained waste water into the lake. Several local environmental protection bureau officials were also ordered punished.

Wu said local authorities sought to stop his reporting by threatening him and torturing him in custody with whippings, beatings, and cigarette burnings. In prison, he was closely monitored in prison at all times, given just 90 seconds to eat each meal, and forced to run in the yard 6 hours each day.

There was not listed telephone number for the prison.

Such abuse is common among Chinese prisoners, despite occasional calls by judicial officials to end torture. Mitigating treatment can often be gained by confessing to crimes or making special payments.

China's leaders have called for stronger environmental protections but remain wary of independent activists whose ranks have swelled in recent years alongside rising incomes and the spread of the Internet.

The result, activists say, is a growing friction and strong disconnect between the government's aims and its often harsh treatment of whistle-blowers.

"It is not the rule of law. It is the rule of people," Wu said. "It is not about people, but about the politics."

CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank