China Environmental News Digest

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Chinese environmental activist arrested, wife says

Monday, April 23, 2007

BEIJING: The Chinese police have detained an environmental activist who was once praised for his efforts to save the country's third-largest freshwater lake, his wife said on Monday.

Wu Lihong was detained on April 13 by the police in Yixing, in the prosperous eastern province of Jiangsu, and accused of extortion and blackmail, his wife, Xu Jiehua, said.

Wu, 39, a salesman-turned-activist, had reported worsening pollution at Tai Lake from chemical factories to local environmental departments and the media. His efforts upset some local authorities who benefited from the high profits and taxes paid by the offending factories, Xu said.

"More than 10 plainclothes police officers broke through our door at night and took him away," Xu said by telephone. "Not until 1 the next morning did these people tell me that they were police and told me that my husband had been detained," she said. "The accusations are totally groundless. All my husband did was try to save the environment and make more people aware of the situation at the lake."

Tai Lake, with an area of 2,420 square kilometers, or 934 square miles, straddles the border of Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. In 2005, Wu was a candidate in a national campaign to name 10 people who had "moved China" through their services to society.

The local police were not immediately available for comment.

Detention and harassment of activists is not uncommon in China. Last year, a court in Zhejiang sentenced an environmental activist to a year and a half in prison for illegally obtaining state secrets.

Also on Monday, Gao Yaojie, a 79-year-old AIDS activist, accused the local government in the central province of Henan of putting her under secret surveillance after her return from the United States, where she received a human rights award.

"I would rather die so I can save the government the money they are spending on spying on me," Gao said. Comment from the local government was not immediately available.

Gao received the Vital Voices Global Women's Leadership Award for Human Rights in March for helping bring to light official complicity in the spread of AIDS in Henan, where thousands of poor farmers were infected in blood-selling schemes in the 1990s.

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