Shanghai's best-known dissident, lawyer Zheng Enchong, yesterday said harassment by authorities had increased ahead of a key political meeting next month and the Olympics later in the year.
In the past week, police had sought to stop him leaving his home to meet people, detained him twice and physically assaulted him by forcing him to the ground, kicking him and slapping him.
Speaking by phone, he said authorities were trying to stop petitioners visiting him at home, where he is now confined. 'The government fears more people coming into contact with me,' he said.
Mr Zheng, who was released from jail in June 2006 after serving three years for leaking state secrets and for contacting a human-rights group, has advised hundreds of Shanghai residents on disputes with district governments over eviction and compensation. Shortly before he was arrested, he accused city officials of corruption in relation to a land sale.
The increased surveillance followed media interviews he gave and comes before the March 5 opening of the National People's Congress, ahead of which the central government typically rounds up dissidents.
Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China, said in a statement: 'If China is serious about the rule of law, it must immediately cease the crackdowns on and detentions of lawyers and legal advisers.'