Elderly Chinese Women Sentenced to Labor Re-education
Wu Dianyuan, Wang Xiuying Had Applied for Permission to Protest at the Olympics
By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, August 20, 2008; 10:43 AM
BEIJING, Aug. 20 -- Two elderly women were sentenced to a year of labor re-education after they applied for permits to demonstrate during the Olympics against their 2001 eviction from their homes, according to the son of one of the would-be protesters.
Wu Dianyuan, 79, and Wang Xiuying, 77, went to Chinese police five times between Aug. 5 and Aug. 18 to seek approval to protest.
Officials at the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau did not approve or deny their applications during the first three visits. On the fourth visit, they were told that they would receive a year's punishment, until July 29, 2009, for "disturbing the public order."
They will not have to go to a re-education camp -- at least for now -- the order stated. But their movement will be restricted and they are likely to face other requirements. If they violate any provisions of the order or other regulations, however, they could be sent to a labor camp.
Wu and Wang tried to return the next day to inquire again about their protest application, but they were told that their right to apply had been stripped because of the re-education labor sentence.
"When I first heard about the possibility of being allowed to protest, I was very happy. My issue could be resolved. But it turned out all to be cheating . . . I feel stuck in my heart," Wu said in a telephone interview.
Li Xuehui said his mother, Wu, and her friend are outraged.
Usually this type of punishment is reserved for "prostitutions and thieves," Li said. "What the two old ladies did is nowhere near that." He pointed out that Wang is disabled--she's blind in one eye and can barely see out of the other.
"We are a communist society, with the people the leaders and owners, but basic citizens' rights cannot even be realized today. How sad it is. The way things are is the opposite of the 'people-oriented' ideology of the country when it was founded," he said.
In response to international pressure, China said it would allow protests in three parks during the Aug. 8-24 Olympic Games. However, no one has been granted permission yet. The police have received 77 applications with 74 of them withdrawn voluntarily and the other three rejected, according to the state news agency Xinhua.
"Punishing Wu and Wang after they applied for protest permits and actively petitioned the government demonstrates that the official statements touting the new Olympics 'protest zones,' as well as the permit application process, were no more than a show," Human Rights in China Executive Director Sharon Hom said in a statement.
Wang Wei, China's top Olympics official, has characterized the fact that there are no protests as a good thing.
"I'm glad to hear that over 70 protest issues have been solved through consultation, dialogue. This is a part of Chinese culture," Wang said at a news briefing Wednesday.
The International Olympic Committee, which has been criticized for not taking a harder line against China for failing to fulfill promises it made related to human rights, has referred questions about the protest zones to the Beijing government.
IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies recently said, however, that, "to date, what had been announced publicly doesn't appear in reality to be happening, and a number of questions are being asked."
"The IOC is keen to see those questions answered by the relevant authorities," she added.