Attention on Olympics, Dissident Goes Missing in China

As the headlines from China focus on Michael Phelps and Nastia Liukin, other stories have gone largely uncovered such as the disappearance of a human rights advocate and her baby daughter.

Beijing-based human rights activist Zeng Jinyan and her baby daughter have been missing since August 7th. Zeng has been under house arrest for months. Her husband, prominent activist Hu Jia, was sentenced to a three and a half year prison term in April on charges of inciting subversion for criticizing Chinese government policies. Hu had advocated for AIDS victims and called for political improvements in China to accompany the Olympic Games.

Zeng has been out of contact with her family, friends and lawyer since a day or two before the opening ceremony, her lawyer Li Fangping told ABC News. He believes that public security officers have taken her out of the city until the end of the Games.

"The information we have received is that she has been taken out of Beijing," said Li. "It is part of Olympics security."

Zeng's disappearance and other arrests of Chinese protesters were reported by international news agencies, but obscured by sports coverage last week, says Human Rights Watch Asia advocacy director Sophie Richardson. And though President Bush's rebuke of China's human rights record before the Games received some international attention, subsequent blows to that score did not, she said.

"It's natural and normal for the attention to be on the athletes themselves at the moment," said Richardson. "At the same time, it's safe to say there's been less press attention to human rights since Bush left Beijing. Major news outlets are not covering these issues in the way we would like them to."

Zeng's lawyer Li said that he himself had also left Beijing because the heightened security made him "nervous" during the Games. He and several other lawyers had been under careful surveillance, he said.

Others who live outside of the city have been told to stay out, said Li, citing a 74-year-old client in northern China's Hebei province who he says is being followed by five cars in order to prevent him from going to Beijing during the Games. In southern Hunan province, well-known blogger Zhu Shuguang (who calls himself Zola) posted frequent updates on the social networking site Twitter as he says he was detained by local officials on Thursday who warned him not to leave his hometown.

Despite the Chinese government's assurances that citizens would be allowed to protest in designated zones in Beijing, these areas have been empty. Several citizens who applied to protest in these zones have been arrested human rights groups say. Activist Ji Sizun, 58, was arrested in Beijing on August 11 after applying for a permit to appeal for greater political participation in China, according to human rights organizations. His family has been unable to contact him.

The public security bureau in China did not respond to calls for comment on this article.

The modest coverage of negative stories like these marks the success of Beijing Olympic organizers at presenting a scrubbed-clean image to visiting journalists, said Xiao Qiang, an expert on Internet censorship and the media in China who teaches at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism.

"The Chinese government has cleaned up just about everything in the city," said Xiao. "It's hard for journalists who are there for just a couple of weeks to find something authentic."

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