Chinese Society Increasingly Vigilant of Human Rights

Chinese society is growing more determined to stand up against official corruption as it fights for basic human rights, a review of recent developments on the mainland shows.

From religious freedom, to freedom of speech, and property rights, people of varying backgrounds across China have defended themselves against what they see as injustice by officials within the Communist Party.

Farmers, peasants, journalists, a pastor, a former police officer and even a Chinese diplomat have all been involved in denouncing corruption within the State.

Recently, nine prominent Chinese lawyers and legal scholars, including a prominent professor from a top government think tank, offered to defend house-church Pastor Cai Zhuohua, who was arrested in 2004 for printing 200,000 copies of Christian literature, according to the China Aid Association. He was charged with "illegal business management." According to its sources, CAA says the government has tried to pressure the lawyers to discourage them from defending Cai.

The human rights focus has also shifted to Increasing unrest among peasants and farmers. In June, farmers in the northeastern Hebei province complained that they had not been properly compensated for land that was taken by the government to make way for a power plant's ash storage yard, according to BBC news.

Footage given to the Washington Post showed farmers fighting with dozens of unidentified camouflage-wearing men. The New York Times also reported that farmers in eastern Zhejiang had forced a pharmaceutical plant to shut down over concerns about pollution. In another case, 2,000 farmers in inner Mongolia demonstrated to try to block local officials from seizing their land, according to the New York Times.

On the journalistic front, writers have also sought to point out problems of repression and corruption within the government against poor farmers and fellow writers.

The publication of "A Survey of China's Peasants" by two Chinese investigative journalists last year demonstrated how local officials' took land from farmers and sold it directly to developers while pocketing the profits, according to BBC news.

There are about 900 million peasants in China, says Radio Free Asia. The book showed concerns among China's leadership that unrest caused by official abuses would diminish the Communist Party's grip on power.

In early July several thousand farmers stood up against 600 policemen in the southeastern Province of Guangdong. Later that month, hundreds of people in Beijing blocked the entrance to land assigned for the 2008 Olympics, according to BBC News.

BBC News reported that in the last 10 years, more than 66 million Chinese farmers have lost their land. As they have learned of their rights, it has led to social unrest. Some estimates say more than 3 million people had been involved in demonstrations last year.

In June, in front of the American and French embassies in Beijing, peasants expressed anger over what they felt were illegal land seizures, bureaucracy and corruption. However they were arrested and removed by police, reported Bible Network news.

The ability to report freely on important issues such as disease and epidemics has also been curtailed, resulting in protests by journalists.

Recently, more than 2,000 Chinese journalists called for the release of two fellow journalists. The leaders signed a letter addressed to the Supreme People's Court of the southeastern province of Guangdong.

The two journalists, Yu Huafeng and Li Minying were imprisoned in 2004 for 12 and 11 years respectively, charged with corruption. They reported that police had beaten to death a prisoner in custody. They also reported on the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) scare as the government was trying to minimize reports of an epidemic.

The Communist Party has not been immune from internal dissension either. Last month, a Chinese diplomat in Australia resigned, requesting political asylum and charging the Chinese government with political and religious repression. Chen Yonglin, 37, also alleged that China operated a network of about 1,000 spies in Australia.

On monday, a lawyer for former Chinese policeman Hao Fengjun, 32, announced that his client had been granted a protection visa after providing information on the abuse and torture of dissidents within China.