Chinese Environmentalist Thrown into Prison

August 14, 2007 Updated: August 14, 2007

On August 10, 2007, Wu Lihong, a renowned environmentalist known as the “Guardian of Tai Lake” from Zhoutie Town, Yixing City of Jiangsu Province, was sentenced to three years charged with “fraud” and “extortion.”

In an interview with The Epoch Times on August 11, Wu's wife, Xu Jiehua, said that she would appeal the sentence because her husband was innocent.

Xu disclosed that Wu asserted his innocence in court. Wu was accused of extorting 15,000 yuan (US$1,980) from a de-dusting equipment factory in Changzhou City, but Wu said that the company paid him the money as remuneration for his service in selling the company's products.

Many of Wu's supporters, including local human rights activists and peasants failed to attend the hearing due to the authorities' monitoring. After much struggle with the authorities, Wu's family eventually made it to the court. Except for a few of Wu's relatives, the occupants of the other 50 seats in the court room were all from public administration authorities. Many overseas media including the Associated Press and the New York Times were all barred entrance.

A friend of Wu who wished to remain anonymous said that the sentence was announced right on the day of the hearing, which proves that it had already been “decided internally” because the authorities had had a grudge against Wu for a long time.

Rights defender Zhang Jianping from Jiangsu Province said that Wu's case fully reflects the corruption and incompetence of the Chinese authorities. He accused that the bureaucrats and businesses conspired to attack environmentalists.

On April 13, 2007, Wu was arrested and his home was ransacked. Before his arrest, Wu planned to appeal in Beijing for “thinking globally, while acting locally” on World Environment Day[1]. Zhang pointed out that Wu's arrest before World Environment Day showed that the authorities were obviously afraid of his action and wanted to prevent him from going to Beijing.

Thirty-nine-year-old Wu Lihong began to unceasingly report about environmental pollution in the Tai Lake area in the early 90's. For over 10 years, he has reported on more than 2,000 businesses for illegal disposal of pollutants. Among these, emissions from over 200 chemical factories were verified and the factories punished.

Because of his reports, for over 10 years, Wu suffered verbal threats, armed assaults, over 10 arrests by the local police, one administrative detention, and four interrogations in handcuffs and leg irons. He was also sued by two local chemical factories that he reported on.

The pollution of Tai Lake in Jiangsu started in the late 80's. In some cities in the Tai Lake area, the chemical industry is a pillar industry. While the economy developed rapidly, the pollution of Tai Lake has deteriorated severely. The water quality of Tai Lake has degraded one level in every 10 years. By 2005, over 90 percent of the Tai Lake watercourse had been polluted. The contaminated water source caused not only damages to agriculture, but also high cancer incidence.

Since May 2007, the tap water in Wuxi City, a city nearby Tai Lake that was once known as “the land of fish and rice,” has started to carry a pungent and foul smell due to a blue-green algae breakout in Tai Lake. Experts say the outbreak was induced by the eutrophication of the water body caused by the pollutants emitted from the textile printing and dyeing industry, industrial chemicals and chemical product manufacturers and food manufacturers near the lake.

Note: [1] World Environment Day, commemorated each year on 5 June, is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action.