Well-Known Human Rights Advocate Teng Biao Is Not Afraid

August 14, 2008 Updated: October 1, 2015
Biao Teng (L) signs a giant petition for human rights in China (Marcus Brandt/AFP/Getty Images)
Biao Teng (L) signs a giant petition for human rights in China (Marcus Brandt/AFP/Getty Images)

On August 14, The Dutch newspaper De Pers sported a front page interview with Teng Biao, one of the most well-known Chinese human rights advocates and one of the few who are still active in Beijing at the moment.

At least he was. The interview was taken the night before he fled the country.

Teng has defended many innocent people such as Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetans, Christians, people who were unrightfully moved from their residences, and more. He moves within the Chinese letter of the law but is still at risk because “in reality, you never know when and how you will be punished.” He is one of the few who are defending basic human rights.

During the Olympics, the 100 or so freethinkers who are normally in Beijing have almost all escaped the city, while those who remain are in hiding.

 The so-called “social stability,” two words that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has constantly barked in order to justify their crimes, is also the reason that mass arrests are taking place. The Chinese edition of The Epoch Times reported on August 6 that the CCP had established 3 “protest-zones” to appease eyes of those watching China.

 Despite these zones, those who apply for a permit to demonstrate are taken into custody, put under house arrest or simply imprisoned.

In 2007 Dutch Radio World Broadcast interviewed Teng in which he stated, “I know that I run the risk to be jailed, to lose my job at the University or be beaten up by the police. But I do not only fight for myself. I fight for my daughter and for her generation. I want for her to be able to live in a society without fear.”

He also said in the interview that he is not frightened by strict control and intimidation, but he is instead fed up with it. Therefore he will take a break and will return when the Olympics are over. Teng is under continuous surveillance and was abducted by police in March where he was taken to an unknown place where he was beaten for two days and told to be quiet during the Olympics.

 Every day he is called by the secret police who warn him to keep his mouth shut and not to speak with foreign journalists. They know whom he speaks to and where he is. If he goes to Tiananmen Square or one of the stadiums he will be stopped. He knows the people from the secret police, because he is having dinner with them once every two weeks.

They are very warm and friendly to him, but if he did not come to the dinners voluntarily, they would force him to.

Other evidence that the authorities have tightened their grip is that during the Olympics everybody who is considered a “risk” is being arrested regardless of if you are one or not. The Chinese-language Epoch Times wrote that “from Gao Zhisheng, Hu Jia, the 8000 Falun Gong practitioners arrested before the Olympics, to migrant workers, petitioners, university students from outside Beijing to foreigners studying and working in China, those who were not detained got kicked back to their hometown or out of the country.”

Teng recently wrote an open letter with Hu Jiao and his wife Zheng Jian. Consequently Hu Jiao was arrested and detained for 3 and a half years while his wife was placed under house arrest. Recently she disappeared and is no longer answering her mobile phone. Teng recalls that she told him on the phone that she also was threatened by the police and warned not to get in touch with the media.

Teng remarked that what made him angry was not that the Games continue, but the abuses against activists and journalistic rights.

“I think that the majority of the athletes and visitors do not care for human rights,” he calmly remarks. “It does not anger me that the Games continue, but that they arrest activists and detain journalists, all in name of ‘social stability.’ That does anger me considerably.”

It was Teng’s sentiment that he would like visitors to speak with people that can explain what is happening behind the facade of colorful temples and mirroring skyscrapers. But he knows there is only a slim chance of this happening. Most Chinese do not have a clue. The state controlled media is working well in its job of deceiving people. He can remember how he only discovered the creaks in the governmental propaganda when he was in his twenties and was conducting research into the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.

“If westerners want to know the real China they have to imagine what it is like when you are being locked up only because you wrote an article. There are 80 journalists detained here. Let them think of Professor Zheng Yi Chun, he has been condemned to 7 years [in prison] for writing a few critical articles on the government.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Martijn Vos
Martijn Vos