Police in Beijing have detained an organiser of a massive open letter urging democratic reforms as tension rises ahead of the Communist Party's 17th National Congress next week.
Heilongjiang petitioner Liu Jie , 50, was taken away on Thursday, only days after she and three other organisers had made public and sent the open letter to party leaders, her friend Wang Guilan said yesterday.
Ms Wang, 48, a Hubei petitioner and one of the four organisers, said Ms Liu's detention was worrying people who had signed the letter.
'Ms Liu was picked up off the street by some policemen after meeting friends,' she said. 'I do not regret organising the open letter, but I know [Ms Liu's detention] frightens many people who signed the letter.'
On Thursday, Ms Liu and another organiser, Cheng Yingcai of Hebei , were intercepted by police near Beijing South Railway Station and taken to a nearby police station. Mr Cheng appeared to have escaped custody, but was not contactable yesterday.
Another organiser, Liu Xueli , said he was afraid and did not want to talk to the media because it was 'inconvenient'.
Ms Wang said about 100 vehicles from Beijing judicial organs were parked near the railway station - usually the first stop for petitioners from out of town - to intercept them.
Some petitioners said they had heard that Ms Liu was held because the authorities suspected she was a member of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.
Signed by more than 12,000 people - mostly petitioners who had travelled to Beijing to file complaints to the authorities seeking redress for alleged mistreatment in their home towns - the letter called on leaders to embrace political reforms and respect citizens' constitutional rights.
It also called for the abolition of the laojiao or 're-education through labour' system, and an end to the persecution of petitioners, who are often rounded up and sent home or imprisoned.