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Co-author of letter denouncing human rights violations reportedly abducted

(HRW/IFEX) - The following is an 8 March 2008 HRW press release:

China: Civil Rights Lawyer is Missing
Co-Authored Open Letter on Human Rights and Olympics

(New York, March 8, 2008) - The Chinese government should disclose whether it is holding civil rights lawyer Teng Biao, who was reportedly abducted on March 6. Teng's apparent abduction comes 10 weeks after the arrest of Hu Jia, his co-author of a letter specifying human rights violations by the Chinese government.

Teng did not return home on the night of March 6, 2008. His wife told journalists that she had heard shouting outside their home and found his car empty. A neighbor told her she had seen a man bundled into car with no license plates. Teng, a member of the Beijing Bar Association and a former visiting scholar of Yale University's law school, had collaborated with human rights advocate Hu Jia, who was formally arrested for "incitement to subvert state power" on January 30, 2008. Teng had recently told colleagues that he was under police surveillance and had been warned by the State Protection section of the Ministry of Public Security to desist from all human rights activities ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

"Teng Biao's disappearance is deeply worrying," said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "It brings the situation for rights defenders in China to an all-time low."

In September 2007, Teng and Hu wrote an open letter titled "The Real China and the Olympics." In the letter - published while Hu was already under house arrest - the two authors document specific and wide-ranging violations of human rights by the Chinese government and call on the international community to hold Beijing to the promises it made when bidding to host the Games, which included improving human rights.

"Is Beijing keeping its promises?" they asked. "Is China improving its human rights record? When you come to the Olympic Games in Beijing, you will see skyscrapers, spacious streets, modern stadiums and enthusiastic people," the authors wrote. "Please be aware that the Olympic Games will be held in a country where there are no elections, no freedom of religion, no independent courts, no independent trade unions; where demonstrations and strikes are prohibited; [and where] the government is not willing to undertake any of its international obligations."

The full, translated text of this letter is available on the Human Rights Watch website: http://china.hrw.org/press/news_release/the_real_china_and_the_olympics.

Teng is associated with the "Weiquan" (rights protection) movement, a group of lawyers, human rights advocates and civil society activists who seek to use China's constitution and legal system to defend human rights. This informal movement is characterized by a willingness to take up cases that are politically sensitive because they involve citizens with grievances against local governments or state agencies.

Human Rights Watch expressed concern that Teng could face the same fate as his co-author of the open letter, Hu, who is awaiting trial on charges of inciting state subversion. Human Rights Watch called on the authorities to immediately investigate the disappearance of Teng, and, if he is being held by state authorities, to ensure his immediate and unconditional release.

"The International Olympic Committee and foreign governments must end their silence and publicly press Beijing about Teng Biao and Hu Jia's cases," said Richardson. "In this case, silence is tantamount to complicity."

For more on the challenges facing lawyers and rule of law advocates in China, please see Human Rights Watch's 2006 report, "A Great Danger for Lawyers," at: http://hrw.org/reports/2006/china1206/

For more of Human Rights Watch's work on the human rights situation in China ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games, please visit: http://china.hrw.org

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