Amnesty International today demanded the immediate release of housing rights activist Ye Guozhu, who was arrested and sentenced in December 2004, after he applied for permission to hold a demonstration against forced evictions in Beijing.
The Chinese authorities say they will now not free Ye Guozhu when his four-year prison sentence expires on 26 July. Instead he will remain imprisoned until at least 1 October, after the end of the 2008 Olympic Games.
"Ye Guozhu is being kept in prison to prevent him from speaking out about the people, like himself, who were forcibly evicted from their homes in Beijing to make room for the Olympics," said Amnesty International.
"This is in complete contradiction of the promises China made to improve human rights before the start of the Games."
According to Ye's family, the Chaobai prison authorities telephoned them on 22 July, informing the family that they should not go to the prison to receive Ye Guozhu on 26 July, the original date for his release.
The prison authorities were reported to have said that Beijing Xuanwu district police had taken Ye away. The Xuanwu District police later said that for the good of the family and to keep them out of trouble during the Games, the police would take care of Ye Guozhu.
They would not however, allow him to return home until sometime after 1 October 2008. The police refused to let the family meet Ye Guozhu or tell them where he is now being detained.
Ye Guozhu, considered by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, was convicted of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” because of his opposition to the seizure and demolition of property to make way for new construction projects for next month’s Olympic Games.
Ye Guozhu’s restaurant and living quarters were among many properties seized when officials of Beijing’s Xuanwu District, along with developers, forcibly evicted a large number of city residents. He received no compensation.