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China 31 August 2005

Two cyber-dissidents put under surveillance during UN human rights visit

"Isn’t it paradoxical that a human rights commission’s visit causes more human rights violations?" - Liu Di

Reporters Without Borders today said it was "sickened by the hypocrisy of the Chinese authorities" in putting Liu Di, a young Internet user who was imprisoned for a year in 2002-2003, and Liu Xiaobo, a leading figure in the Chinese pro-democracy movement, under surveillance on 29 August while receiving a visit from Louise Arbour, the UN high commissioner for human rights.

"This incident shows how Beijing views dialogue with the United Nations - as a masquerade in which they try to put on a show of conforming to standards while refusing to make the least real commitment on human rights," the press freedom organisation said.

"For fear of upsetting their hosts’ susceptibilities, many foreign officials visiting China limit themselves to formulaic statements that are too restrained to be effective. We hope the high commissioner will adopt a firm stance on China, which is the world’s biggest prison for journalist and cyber-dissidents," Reporters Without Borders added.

On 29 August, the police told Liu Di not to leave her home until further notice and three policemen were later posted outside her home. "Many people are being forced to stay at home during Louise Arbour’s visit, in violation of their civil rights," she said. "Isn’t it paradoxical that a human rights commission’s visit causes more human rights violations?"

Liu Di was arrested in November 2002 because of essays and articles posted on online discussion forums under the pseudonym of the Stainless Steel Rat. She was secretly held for more than a year without being tried.

At least five policemen were posted outside Liu Xiaobo’s home on 29 August and, although allowed to leave his home, he was followed everywhere. When he asked the police if they had an official document authorising this surveillance, they refused to reply. The surveillance was "completely illegal," he said.

An impassioned human rights advocate, Liu Xiaobo was placed under house arrest during the anniversary of the Tienanmen Square massacre last June. A former Beijing university professor and president of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC), he received the Reporters Without Borders prize for the defence of free expression in December 2004.

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