Attempt to save polluted Chinese lake leads to arrest
By Andreas Landwehr
From Monsters and Critics.com
Apr 17, 2007, 18:54 GMT
Beijing - The arrest of a prominent Chinese environmental activist who has campaigned for years against the pollution of Taihu Lake along the Yangtze River has once again drawn attention to the issue of how China deals with dissent.
Wu Lihong was hauled away from his home by police on Friday night as friends and neighbours tried in vain to prevent his arrest. 'He is a thorn in the side of local authorities,' a friend explained.
Wu has been documenting the dramatic increase in the pollution of the third-largest freshwater lake in China for several years. He has also accused civil servants and companies of nepotism.
He grew up beside Taihu Lake, the third-largest lake in China, which is located in the Yangtze Delta plain on the border of Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces.
The lake is a natural holding pool of the Yangtze River and covers an area of 2,300 square kilometres. It has been known as the Pearl of the Yangtze Delta.
However, the lake has turned into a green-brown brew, its fish are dying and a conspicuous number of people living nearby have died of cancer.
After all, 40 million people living in the districts of Jiangsu and Shanghai get their drinking water from Lake Taihu. A dangerous accumulation of fertilisers and industrial wastewater has been detected in 70 per cent of its water.
The lack of oxygen, caused by pollution, could damage and ultimately destroy the ecology of Lake Taihu.
Officers of the town of Yixing, which is located within eastern China's economical Boomtown Jiangsu, have desired to silence the 39- year-old for a long time. When the last attempt to hush him failed, they sent a large number of police.
Officials in Yixing are believed to have identified Wu as a real threat. 'About 50 to 60 police officers surrounded our house,' his wife, Xu Jiehau said on Tuesday. 'They knocked in our door and stormed into the house.' Wu was marched off.
'They searched every bit, every book, even the attic.' Wu's computer, his camera and his credit cards were confiscated by police.
'They packed everything in,' said his wife. When police were asked, what crime Wu had committed, they said, he had 'messed about with foreigners.'
Wu has granted interviews to German and other foreign media interviews about his campaign.
His case is reminiscent of that of farmer Fu Xiancai, who claimed compensation after having been resettled from the Three Gorges Dam area in central China.
He also gave interviews to foreign media. Police warned him that such interviews would have 'no good consequences.' On his return from the police station he was struck from behind by unknown attackers. The farmer has been a paraplegic since. He is undergoing treatment at a rehabilitation clinic in Beijing.
Wu was also beaten. But this time it is even more serious: He put pressure on local authorities by sending photographs, samples of the polluted water and petitions to parliament and China's Ministry of Environment in Beijing. Now they plan to accuse him of 'blackmail,' Wu's wife alleges.
'The propagandists and security people tried repeatedly to persuade Wu not to petition any more as local officials had to go to Beijing to account for his actions,' his friend said.
According to his friend, the activist did not want to cooperate with them. Quite the contrary: He had planned to reveal new evidence of their failure before a Beijing court on the occasion of Earth Day on Sunday.
'Shortly before, Wu Lihong is arrested. Is that a coincidence?'Technorati Tags: china, democracy, environment, activist