Internet writer missing after reporting on steel worker protests

New York, October 26, 2005 —A businessman who reported online about steel worker protests in the central Chinese town of Chongqing has disappeared, and is thought to be in police custody, according to the advocacy group Chinese Rights Defenders (CRD). Police seized Shi Xiaoyu from his home in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province on October 20, CRD reported on Monday.

Shi had been posting information on the Internet about Chongqing steel worker protests that began in August. Sympathetic to their struggle, he was in touch with the workers’ representatives, according to online reports.

Two protesters were killed and scores injured in mid-October when police broke up one protest, the Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin reported. Chinese media have not reported the crackdown.

CRD reported that police began monitoring Shi in early October. Chongqing police traveled to his home in Zhejiang on October 19, and on the following day they seized Shi and confiscated his computer and other materials, according to CRD and online reports.

Local rights advocates are sometimes the only source of information about workers’ and farmers’ protests, which the local media cannot cover. The advocates are frequently targeted by authorities in an effort to stop the flow of information.

On October 4, Yang Maodong, a writer and activist more commonly known by his pseudonym Guo Feixiong, was officially arrested on allegations of “gathering crowds to disturb public order.” Yang disappeared in mid-September in Guangdong Province, where he had been advising residents staging a recall campaign of the Taishi village chief, whom they accused of corruption. Yang was a primary source of information for the press and had posted his reports on a bulletin board called Yannan, which was shut down in late September.

Police cracked down on the protests in Guangdong, beating and arresting residents of Taishi and harassing local and foreign journalists who traveled to the town. Only Yang remains imprisoned.