On November 17, Mr. Zhao Xin, a renowned Beijing democracy activist, was severely injured in a beating in Sichuan. It took a total of 11 stitches to close four wounds on his head. The bone in his right leg was fractured; tissue in his calf muscle was destroyed; and two of his ribs were broken. At present, he is in the Bayi Orthopedics Hospital in the Chengdu Military Region. He will need to undergo treatment for one to two months before he can get out of bed.
Friends from Chengdu and other surrounding areas have rushed to see him. Online support for Zhao Xin continues to pour in. The UN Human Rights Inspection Group and US embassy have called to express their concern for Mr. Zhao. Amnesty International, the international human rights organization, issued a statement urging authorities to guarantee his safety, thoroughly investigate the incident, and bring the persons responsible to justice.
From his hospital bed, Zhao Xin expressed gratitude to his concerned friends. He said that many people, both friends and strangers, have come from places such as Chengdu, Chongqing, and Guizhou to see him and to give him flowers and traditional bone soup. Friends from places such as Hubei and Guangdong are also rushing to see him. His visitors include intellectuals, Christians, human rights defenders, and members of the Pan-Blue Coalition. Many friends also called to express their sympathy, which touched him deeply.
He said, “When it snows, they bring coal. They share my hardships. My friends' concern has strengthened my beliefs, driving me to work harder and to go a step further in the future for China's democratic rights.”
Li Hai, Liu Jingshen, Ma Wendou, and Liu Di all said that they represented Beijing democratic activists such as Qi Zhiyong and Hu Jia, who were unable to come to pay their respects. They expressed their remorse that they had been delayed because they were being monitored by the authorities.
Ma Wendo urged the local authorities to solve the case as soon as possible, to arrest the criminals responsible, and make them pay for Zhao's injuries. He hoped that Sichuan officials would give serious attention to the matter and provide Zhao Xin with suitable protection. Liu Jingshen said that the beating remains a mystery and must be investigated. Liu Di said that her biggest hope is that Zhao would get well soon.
For many years, Zhao Xin has been engaged in democratic human rights activities. Whenever high level officials from democratic countries or UN human rights officials go to Beijing, policemen arrest him or escort him out of the area. Early this year, when Zhao Ziyang passed away, Zhao Xin was arrested for submitting a request to the Beijing police station for a protest rally. He had to be bailed out of detention.
Mr. Zhao disclosed that, besides writing articles, he often participates in defending human rights activities, for which he has been summoned to the police station many times. The police have threatened him with arrest and incarceration in a forced labor camp because of his activities.
His recent trip to Sichuan was not voluntary. Because of President Bush's visit to China, he was forced to leave his home. Police escorted him onto the train. He pointed out that this incident was well planned and presented the following evidence:
Zhao Xin accompanied his parents on a trip south. The Beijing police sent them by train and had an agent follow them closely during the trip. When they arrived at Chengdu, Zhao made a phone call and tried to send a short text message, but it did not go through, confirming that they were being monitored.
Early on the morning of November 17, Zhao was followed by two suspicious cars, an Audi and a VW Passat, on his return trip from Jiuzhaigou, a famous tourist destination in Sichuan. Two days later, he recognized that one of his attackers had been in the Audi.
After dinner on November 17, he was beaten by six or seven people at the entrance of the large Qiang Lin hotel. Zhao was the only person brutally beaten. Aside from hitting his head, they focused on his right leg, beating as if to break it. The two main assailants were wearing leather jackets and looked like professional thugs. One attacker said, “We're here to beat you. Will you continue speaking out so much?”
Renowned Sichuan democratic figures such as Huang Qi, Wang Yi, and Ou Yangyi were the first to visit Zhao. On Dec. 28, the UN human rights investigation group completed their investigation in Tibet and returned to the Chengdu Airport, where they spoke with Zhao over the phone for about an hour. The United States Embassy also called him to express concern.
Advancing Democracy in the Face of Repression
The Chinese Communist Party police keep dissidents under surveillance. They routinely arrest, monitor, and imprison those who peacefully advocate for justice. However, they are widely regarded as turning a blind eye on criminals or in some cases even joining their ranks.
Several dozen Beijing democratic figures including Ma Wendou, Wang Guoqi, Qi Zhiyong, Fang Zhen, Ye Guoqiang, Hu Jia, and Pang Meiqing pointed out that the scoundrels who committed the attack have gone unpunished. The related authorities have been indifferent and vague about the matter.
The group resolved to express their indignation to Mainland and overseas media: “We urge the media and our friends from all walks of life everywhere to pay attention to this serious injustice. If the matter cannot be resolved, we will expand our protest. This year, Beijing's democratic dissidents have made diligent and bold attempts to advance democracy, despite the suppression of Beijing authorities, who have intensified the persecution… We believe that this is like delivering a baby. Severe pain indicates that the baby's birth is imminent, and this newborn baby will be the happy future of a democratic Chinese nation.”