Rights Group Reports Detention of Chinese Activist

From Associated Press

A human rights campaigner who fled China and returned early this year with assurances that he would not be punished has been arrested, beaten and sent to a labor camp, a human rights group said Saturday.

Family members visited Yao Zhenxiang at the camp on Oct. 15, in their first meeting since police arrested him and his older brother on a Shanghai street nearly six months earlier, the New York-based Human Rights in China said.

Yao's face was ashen and covered in scars and he had trouble raising his right arm, the group said. He told his family that the wounds weren't recent but had been inflicted the night of his arrest, it said.

Human Rights in China said police accused the brothers of smuggling pornographic tapes into China and sent them without trial to a reform-through-labor farm near Yancheng, about 175 miles northwest of Shanghai, Yao Zhenxiang for a three-year term, his brother for two.

The group said authorities have ordered other prisoners to watch Yao 24 hours a day. He is not allowed to speak with them nor they with him, and he has been denied reading materials.

Yao, 36, reportedly told his family that if such treatment continues he "will go crazy." He also reportedly denied the charges against him.

Yao was a member of the Shanghai-based Assn. for Human Rights in the early 1990s. The organization tried for years to gain official approval. Instead, Shanghai police began rounding up its members along with other dissidents in 1994.

Yao fled in August and spent months on the run before making it to Hong Kong. He was granted political asylum in France in 1995.

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