Malaysian police arrested a group of peaceful protesters who were attempting to send a human rights message to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during his visit to a top university in Malaya on Wednesday April 27.
Moments before the Chinese Communist Party’s second most powerful leader visited the University of Malaya, a group of students stood in silent protest urging for the release of China’s human rights artist-activist Ai Wei Wei. As part of their demonstration preparations, the participants held up banner saying “Welcome Premier Wen”.
However around 10 uniformed and plainclothes police officers arrived and demanded the demonstrators take off their outer shirts to reveal the words printed on their inner shirts. When the protesters refused to comply, the police dragged 13 of them into police vehicles. A few remaining protestors, under coercion by the policemen, revealed their inner shirts which were printed with Chinese characters calling for the release of Ai Wei Wei.
According to reports by Malaysiakini, Brickfields police chief Wan Abdul Bari said they were all detained for illegal assembly.
Among the 13 people arrested include members of Solidarity for Civil Rights in China (SUARAM) coordinator Yap Heng Lung and Awam activist Lau Shu Shi.
In a separate incident two Falun Gong practitioners registered with the UNHCR as refugees were arrested near the university earlier that day. It is believed they had intended to also peacefully protest at the university, but to bring attention to the persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual movement inside China.
All those arrested at the university prior to Wen’s visit were released later that night and were told to report back to the police station on May 10.
After the incident, SUARAM issued a press release condemning the police action, calling it a an attack on freedom of expression and assembly, which are guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.
Ahmad Shukri Kamaruddin who is the President of Solidarity Mahasiswa Malaysia, also led around 20 students to participate in the failed demonstration. A majority of them are Malay. None of them were detained.
Later in the day inside a university hall, Wen Jiabao gave a speech and conducted a Q&A session. It was initially believed to be a public event but it became a closed door affair. According to reports by Malaysiakini, the student body treasurer Zheng Tian Long said four to five student representatives attempted to ask questions during the Q&A session but were unsuccessful.
Three students were earlier arranged to ask questions on education, science & technology and the reason why Wen Jiabao participates in politics.
A 20-year-old first-year student, Chen Shao Kang, was blocked by officials from asking questions relating to the arrest of the student protestors earlier that day and about the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. An official believed to be from the Student’s Affair Office warned him not to ask sensitive questions, or else he would be taken away by police.
Wen Jiabao visited Malaysia on Wednesday and Thursday. He is now in Indonesia, Friday and Saturday.