Amnesty Asks China to Free Anti-Olympic Activists

December 8, 2007 Updated: December 8, 2007

BEIJING—A London-based international human rights watchdog has called for China to free activists in custody for staging anti-Olympic protests over land grabs and forced evictions.

Amnesty International urged China to immediately and unconditionally release Yang Chunlin, who was detained in July for his involvement in a petition “We Want Human Rights, not the Olympics” signed by farmers protesting against land seizures.

Yang reportedly on numerous occasions had his arms and legs stretched and chained to the four corners of an iron bed, Amnesty said, adding that he was then left to eat, drink and defecate in that position.

Ahead of the Dec. 10-12 International Olympic Committee executive board meeting in Lausanne, Amnesty also asked China to free housing activist Ye Guozhou, who is serving a four-year prison sentence for organizing protests against forced evictions ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Ye's brother Ye Guoqiang was detained in September on suspicion of “inciting subversion.” Ye Guozhu's son Ye Mingjun has been released on bail and awaits trial on a similar charge.

Amnesty also took up the cudgels for Wang Ling who was sent to a labor camp last month to undergo 15 months of re-education for signing petitions and preparing banners in protest against the demolition of her property for Olympic construction projects. It said she was beaten on numerous occasions.

The cases “underscore the urgent need for action on the human rights situation in China in the lead up to the Games”, Amnesty said in an e-mailed statement seen on Saturday.

“The reports of torture must be investigated and measures taken against anyone found responsible. Those abused must receive reparation,” it added.

The Olympics is the coming-out-party of the government and a huge source of pride for an overwhelming majority of the world's most populous nation.

The Communist Party, which has ruled unchallenged since 1949, is obsessed with stability and anything going wrong.

With 21,600 journalists accredited for next year's Games and up to half that number expected to turn up to report from the city without IOC credentials, the Beijing Games promise to be the most intensely scrutinized Olympics in history.