Public Security Officers Detain Environmentalists in Zhejiang Province

October 27, 2005

Hangzhou public security officials detained six members of the informal environmental group “Green Watch” on October 19, according to a report by Human Rights in China (HRIC). Tan Kai, Lai Jinbiao, Gao Haibing, Wu Yuanming, Qi Huimin, and Yang Jianming formed the group after villagers from Huashui Township, Zhejiang province, began voicing concerns about pollution from a chemical factory near Huaxi that the villagers say threatens the lives and livelihoods of residents.

Why the Hangzhou authorities detained the six environmentalists is not clear. According to HRIC, Tan opened a bank account in mid-October to begin saving money to register the group as a social organization under the relevant national law. Shortly thereafter, the six group members were detained, with Tan placed in criminal detention. Public security officials released the other five after a brief detention.

The detention of the Green Watch members follows increased central government scrutiny of environmental groups as well as a number of environmental protests in Zhejiang province. In August, senior officials announced that the All-China Environment Federation would conduct a survey of environmental organizations. Some analysts believe that the goal of the survey is to limit the independence of civil society organizations, particularly environmental groups.