Wu was arrested in April 2007 and sentenced to three years on extortion charges after campaigning for years against pollution in Taihu lake, one of China’s biggest freshwater lakes and once famed for its beauty.
Wu, who was released on April 12, said he was repeatedly beaten in jail, kept in solitary confinement and denied telephone contact and visits with family and friends.
“They used tree branches to whip my head, burned my hands with cigarettes and kicked and beat me until my arms and legs were swollen and my head was spinning,” Wu said.
“In July 2007, Yixing’s (Communist) party secretary and the police chief told me, ‘If you confess in writing, we will let you go. If you don’t cooperate, then we will fabricate evidence to make you a criminal.’”
Wu was once given an environmental award by the government for his efforts to clean up Taihu and shame the lake’s major industrial polluters.
In most places, Wu Lihong would be just another single-minded activist relentlessly pushing his cause, cleaning up China’s third-biggest body of freshwater, Lake Tai.
But in China, he’s a dissident. This April, he was released after serving a three-year sentence for charges he says were trumped up to silence him. He shows scars on his hand that he says are from cigarette burns inflicted during police questioning and says he remains under constant surveillance.
Earlier this month, the plight of people like Mr. Wu was given a boost when Liu Xiaobo, currently serving an 11-year sentence for subversion, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Mr. Wu says that has given him hope that one day China’s government will change and become more tolerant. Maybe he won’t have to look over his shoulder at the men tailing him or worry that a waitress is secretly recording his conversation.
Mr. Wu’s biggest crime appears to be what some may find to be an irritating refusal to stop haranguing local companies and officials to stop dumping toxins into the water.
A month after getting out of jail in April, Mr. Wu was back at it, inviting foreign journalists to take pictures of the brown scum pouring out of factory pipes into waters filled with garbage and dead fish.
He was tailed again, and warned to stop, he says.
It’s hard to gauge the success or failure of Mr. Wu’s campaign. He has been able to recruit plenty of global media attention. But the condition of the lake seems little improved, despite government pledges to fix the problem.
In a country where millions still live below the poverty line, it’s sobering to consider the amount of time and money spent keeping tabs on Mr. Wu.
KEIN WELTHANDEL MIT DIKTATUREN – NO TRADE WITH CORRUPT NON-DEMOCRACIES
September 25, 2011