18th Party Congress

Anxious authorities crack down on critics ahead of party congress

Anxious authorities round up, put under house arrest scores of activists, dissidents

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 October, 2012, 7:55am

Mainland authorities have stepped up harassment of government critics ahead of the Communist Party's upcoming 18th national congress, warning them against speaking out during the sensitive leadership reshuffle.

Activists say authorities, anxious about any social unrest that could disrupt a smooth handover of power, are using every means at their disposal to silence dissidents ahead of the once-in-a-decade event. The congress is set for November 8 in Beijing.

Scores of activists, rights lawyers, dissident writers, liberal intellectuals and petitioners seeking to air grievances have been detained, put under house arrest or placed under surveillance.

The Ministry of Public Security did not respond to requests for comment, but such round-ups are common before major events like the party congress, at which most top leadership posts are expected to change hands.

The central government's website quoted Justice Minister Wu Aiying on Tuesday urging law enforcement authorities to spare no effort in "maintaining social stability to foster a safe, stable and harmonious environment for a triumphant 18th party congress".

Legal scholar and civil rights activist Xu Zhiyong said on his Twitter account that seven security agents had been preventing him from leaving his home since last Thursday.

Xu wrote that agents told him his New Citizen Movement - founded to support democracy and the rule of law - "had been too active and was posing danger". "Yes, everything I do for this country's advancement poses danger to you all," said Xu, who was detained for more than 30 hours in June.

Rights activist Hu Jia said pressure from security police forced him to leave Beijing on Thursday and go with his parents back to their hometown in Huangshan , Anhui province. Police told them not to return until after the party congress. "My parents' sense of fear is tremendous," said Hu. "They literally begged me to leave."

Others, like China Democracy Party co-founder Zha Jianguo, were warned they would be taken to secret detention sites and held throughout the week-long congress. "I'm not willing to go, but they said this is a general arrangement," said Zha, who had spent nine years in jail for "subverting state power".

Several human rights lawyers also reported having their freedoms curtailed. Li Fangping, for example, said security police ordered him not to meet journalists, foreigners, activists and other rights lawyers.

A rights group, Human Rights in China, said dozens of former police officers who were victims of miscarriages of justice recently arrived in Beijing for a protest. Around 20 had been detained and escorted back to their hometowns in the past week.