Interrogation of intellectuals seen as a move back to the ideology of the past The detention of three prominent intellectuals in Beijing has fuelled fears that the new leadership is determined to strengthen the authoritarian control of the party, with scant regard for China's international image. Liu Xiaobo, Yu Jie and Zhang Zuhua were taken away from their homes for interrogation on Monday and released yesterday. The three have one thing in common: they are active members of the Independent Chinese Pen Centre (ICPC), which tested the new leaders' limits of tolerance. The organisation, formed in 2001, is a hotbed for dissident writers. The founding chairman was Liu Binyan , now living in exile in the United States. Liu's book, A Second Kind of Loyalty, was the first to question whether obedience to the Communist Party should be unconditional in the 1980s. The group grew rapidly on the mainland under current chairman Liu Xiaobo and secretary Yu, attracting many leading intellectuals critical of the government. Zhang is a legal scholar who has written about constitutional rights. In defiance of authorities, the centre petitioned for the release of jailed writers, and in October awarded a prize to Zhang Yihe for her book about persecution of her father and his generation of intellectuals in the 1950s. ICPC member Zhao Dagong said the group's dissident origins, its affiliation with the International PEN organisation and its activism had made it a target for suppression. But until now, the government had been reluctant to risk international condemnation by targeting influential writers. However, President Hu Jintao had shown little concern for global repercussions, he said, in marked contrast to his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, who had often put on some pretence of respecting human rights. Mr Zhao said Mr Hu's objective was to perpetuate one-party rule at whatever cost. This rigid stance was found in his disregard for the democratic aspirations of people in Hong Kong and his hardline approach to Taiwan, he said. Wang Yi, a law professor and deputy secretary of the ICPC, said he was shocked at the current wave of repression. Intellectuals had overestimated the extent to which economic reforms had made the Communist Party more rational, but the stark facts were now dispelling their illusions, he said. In the lead-up to the current campaign to silence dissent, the mainland has seen a stream of assaults on neo-liberalism and the infiltration of western ideas. In an internal party meeting, Mr Hu reportedly attributed communism's collapse in the Soviet Union to the regime's failure to hold firm on ideology, and demanded the party fortify itself against corrosive influences. In a December 1 Politburo study session, leaders were urged to tap into the party's past to find its future path. The editor of a party newspaper said resorting to the old ideology was seen as a solution for widespread social dissatisfaction as reflected in mass protests over rampant official corruption and the uneven redistribution of state assets. 'The party expects that veering to the left of the official ideological spectrum can halt the polarisation of society,' he said. This policy shift would guide government actions for some time to come, he said.