Chinese netizens and human rights activists have started a campaign to show their support for those government critics in prison or under house arrest for their political views. The Chinese New Year was celebrated this year on Monday 23 January, marking the beginning of the Year of the Dragon. The New Year Festival is the most important holiday in China and celebrated for two weeks. Most people go back home to reunite with families and celebrate the coming Lunar New Year together. And it is also customary to call your friends and relatives far away or send them greeting cards.
But for prisoners of conscience, neither can they go home, nor can they be called or be visited by families and friends. They are nevertheless not forgotten. Recently, people are sending their greetings to prisoners of conscience in China by post cards and letters. One of these campaigns was launched by Mr. Zhao Lianhai.
The campaign was launched online by Zhao Lianhai, a rights campaigner whose son was among the hundreds of thousands sickened during the 2008 melamine-tainted milk scandal. He assisted families of sickened children to seek compensation from the officials. The civil lawsuit filed by the group of parents was rejected in Chinese courts. However his continous fighting for justice angered the Chinese government. He was alleged of committing the crime of “disturbing social order” and sentenced to imprisonment for two and a half years in November 2010. He was released out of prison on medical parole in December 2010.
“My heart grows fonder of faraway loved ones on lonely festive days. Many people fighting for China’s democracy, rule of law, and social progress are imprisoned due to persecution. They lost their freedom and suffer the pain of being separated from families and friends. They are not criminals, but prisoners of conscience!” Zhao wrote in his campaign (in Chinese) introduction.
Mr. Zhao Lianhai urges people to send New Year’s greetings for the Year of the Dragon to China’s prisoners of conscience. Among the addressees on the campaigners’ lists are jailed Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo and Lawyer Gao Zhisheng, and other people calling for political reform and fighting for justice inside China.