Mainland authorities are poised to launch a new crackdown on petitioners ahead of the Beijing Olympics, with the Ministry of Public Security urging police to stop them coming to the capital. The ministry did not specify what methods it would use to stop people seeking redress reaching the capital, but Deputy Minister Yang Huanning said police should go the extra mile to head off potential trouble from complainants to ensure an amicable atmosphere for the Games. The clampdown comes as authorities tighten the net on dissent on the mainland, giving top priority to security and stability ahead of the kick-off of the Olympic Games on August 8. In one of the most recent incidents, Lu Jun - chief co-coordinator of www.hbvhbv.com , a website dedicated to mainland hepatitis B patients - was detained for four hours on entering the mainland from Hong Kong on Thursday, apparently in connection with an international campaign last week against Beijing blocking the website. At a Ministry of Public Security briefing, Mr Yang admitted that social conflict was noticeably rising, making it more difficult to manage the claims and interests of different social groups. Petitioners who go to Beijing seeking help against perceived injustices back home risk detention in doing so, but often feel they have no other choice. At any one time, up to 10,000 people are crammed into slum houses in the so-called petitioners' village near the Supreme People's Court in southern Beijing, trying to get their cases heard. Such crackdowns often come ahead of key gatherings in Beijing, such as the annual March meeting of the national legislature and the top government advisory body Yu Jianrong, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Rural Development Institute, said the crackdowns only drove the issues out of sight temporarily, leaving the root causes unaddressed. Professor Yu said the mainland's use of petitioning officials was fundamentally flawed because it settled disputes through pressure rather than by law. 'The system is used to settle disputes, but it isn't a system based on the rule of law,' he said. 'It often ends up doing nothing but pitting the petitioners against the local authorities.' Zhao Jingzhou, a petitioner from Harbin in Heilongjiang province, said seeking out justice in Beijing was the last thing he wanted to do, but he had been repeatedly turned away by local authorities. Mr Zhao, 56, said he spent 1995 and 1996 in Beijing campaigning against Harbin industrial and commerce authorities for what he said was illegal ransacking of his shop in 1991, but to no avail. He received more than 210,000 yuan in compensation in April 2003 only after he set himself on fire in front of the provincial government compound. Professor Yu admitted that the petitioning mechanism allowed authorities to learn about the issues concerning the public, 'but it should let the judicial system settle disputes'.