- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 24, 2009

BEIJING (AP) - Authorities in China’s southwestern Sichuan province have made a “coordinated effort” to silence dissent by arresting two activists and detaining four others over the past month, a human rights group said Tuesday.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders said police in the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu detained four human rights activists and summoned 10 others because they publicized two recent protests.

In Chongqing city, two workers’ rights advocates, who had been detained in mid-February along with three others for organizing a sit-in at a closed factory, were formally arrested for “assembling a crowd to disrupt social order.”

Spokesmen for Chongqing and Chengdu’s public security bureaus both said they had not heard of the cases.

Officials have been worried that dissent will grow as slumping global demand idles tens of millions of rural migrants who power China’s factories.

Additionally, with several sensitive anniversaries this year, including the failed Tibetan uprising that sent the Dalai Lama into exile, “authorities seem extremely concerned with stability in Sichuan,” the group said.

The province borders Tibet and has seen violent protests in its Tibetan communities. It also was shaken last year by a massive earthquake, and unhappiness lingers over the high number of schools that collapsed, killing thousands of children.

“We have noted a coordinated effort in silencing dissent in Sichuan province and its neighboring areas on the part of national and local authorities,” the group said.

In the Chengdu case, the four men worked with two human rights groups. Huang Xiaomin, Lu Daqun and Yan Wenhan volunteered with Tianwang Human Rights Center, while Xin Qingxian worked with Rights Defense in Action.

The group said the four were believed to have been detained for publicizing two recent protests.

In one case, a homeowner resisting eviction and demolition of his house injured six policemen with kerosene and firecrackers on Feb. 20. In the second case, about 20 people chained themselves together outside the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court on Feb. 23-24 to protest unfair rulings issued over the years.

The group said it learned that the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection has dispatched a team to Chengdu to criticize the local government and municipal party committee’s handling of the incidents.

In Chongqing, workers’ advocates Hu Weimin and Tang Aimin were detained Feb. 15 for organizing a sit-in outside a closed silk factory. Family members say they have not been able to visit either man.

The three others originally detained with them have been released, the group said.

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