August 6, 2009 / 10:19 AM / 10 years ago

Chinese start postcard drive to support dissidents

BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - Chinese web users have launched a postcard campaign to support dissidents in prisons and to protest against their detention, one of the organizers told Reuters.

Chinese Internet activists launched their first postcard campaign last month, in a little-known case of a man detained in Fujian province in southern China.

They are now expanding the campaign to support better-known activists, including legal aid lawyer Xu Zhiyong and earthquake victim advocate Tan Zuoren.

“It depends on the prison or detention house whether they can receive the postcards,” wrote Wen Yunchao, the blogger who initiated the idea.

“But pressure could be felt when huge amounts of postcards are flooding in.”

Beijing is tightening its grip on the country’s determined but small activist community, which has come under intense government pressure ahead of the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic in October.

Xu Zhiyong, who had taken on causes including helping victims of tainted baby milk formula and issuing an independent report on Tibet, was taken from his home last week and is being held in an undisclosed location.

Tan Zuoren, a writer who compiled a list of earthquake victims, faces trial next week on a charge of “inciting subversion of state power”.

The first postcard campaign supported Guo Baofeng, detained for spreading information about ties between police and suspected rapists and murderers. Police said the woman died of illness.

Guo was released two weeks later, although it was not clear whether the postcards had helped. None ever reached his hands.

Advocates told web surfers and friends to write “Your mother calls you back home for lunch” on the postcards, referring to a phrase currently popular among the Chinese Internet community.

“‘Come back home for lunch’ is a metaphor for freedom,” Ran Yunfei, a magazine editor who said he had sent postcards to Tan and Huang, told Reuters.

“And the word ‘mother’ makes people feel warm.”

There is no evidence so far to show that the movement has any influence on the dissidents’ cases, but Ran said at least it provides a way for people to express their opinion without risking unwelcome attention from security forces.

“The most important thing is to show your attitude,” Ran said. “That’s why it makes sense.” (Editing by Ken Wills and Sugita Katyal)

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