Rights activists are calling on the leaders of the G20 nations not to ignore China's human rights violations during its summit in the eastern city of Hangzhou in early September.
China is hosting the Sept. 4-5 summit during what activists are saying is the worst crackdown on rights activists in decades, and campaigners want global leaders to hold the ruling Chinese Communist Party to account.
"When you arrive in China ... it will be during the worst human rights crackdown in the country since the suppression of the 1989 pro-democracy movement," the overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) said in an open letter to G20 leaders.
"Many practices and policies of President Xi Jinping’s administration do not make China an accountable and responsible global partner today," it said.
The group cited the "suffocation" of civil society groups, broadening persecution of dissidents, religious believers and ethnic minorities, and Beijing's repeated violation of both its own laws and international treaty obligations.
In recent weeks, Hangzhou city authorities have shut down businesses and industrial facilities across the scenic city, ordered increased security checks on citizens, and packed large numbers of its citizens off on vacation, in a bid to "maintain stability," residents said.
Police in the city are targeting China’s mostly Muslim Uyghurs for extra scrutiny, while unofficial Protestant "house churches" have been ordered not to hold gatherings in the run-up to the summit, sources told RFA.
Churches under guard
Calls to the city's largest Protestant church, Chongyi, rang unanswered during office hours on Monday.
However, a Hangzhou Protestant church member surnamed Hu said the church is now being required to undergo security checks for all of its members.
"There are police standing guard outside it, and it looks as if they are preventing people from going inside the church."
"There are a few police there, and they all have security scanners, and they scan anyone who approaches them," he said.
"If that was me, I'd feel under a lot of psychological pressure, especially because living in a place where we don't have freedom of religious belief already creates a hidden source of anxiety," he said.
A Hangzhou resident surnamed Zhu said there is also a heavy security presence, with police vehicles clustered in various locations on the ouskirts of the city.
"It's a serious nuisance," Zhu said. "There are more than 100 security checkpoints around the perimeter of Hangzhou, and all vehicles coming into the city have to stop at them."
"The security checks take between 10 and 20 minutes per vehicle," he said. "They open up your fuel tank and look behind the trim for forbidden items."
"I live out of town, and I basically have to go through checks every day coming into the city," Zhu said.
Hangzhou-based rights activist Zou Wei said he and fellow activists have been warned by police not to give any interviews to foreign media.
"A lot of people aren't very willing to talk right now, because we have had warnings from police," he said.
"Speaking as a Hangzhou resident, I hope that the Chinese leadership will lose this very backwards-looking, feudal attitude they have, that sees the country's leaders as overly important," he said.
"In normal countries, the most important thing is letting people get on with their lives."
Earlier this month, a court in the northern city of Tianjin handed down jail terms of up to 71/2 years to four human rights activists and lawyers for subversion, in a series of widely criticized "show trials" that followed televised "confessions."
The confessions claimed that the defendants had come under undue influence from "hostile forces" outside China.
Amnesty International China researcher Patrick Poon called for greater international pressure on China on human rights.
"We would like to see leaders of all countries focus not just on economic issues," Poon said.
"There is an international responsibility to bring up issues such as the rule of law and respect for international treaties with the Chinese government."
"If China isn't respecting the law .. then it will be even harder to ensure that international business transactions are governed by the rule of law," he said.
CHRD meanwhile called on world leaders to ask Xi and his officials how they intend to inspire public confidence amid a nationwide crackdown on activists and critics of the regime.
They should also raise concerns about new laws that treat overseas non-government organizations (NGOs) as threats to China's national security, it said in a statement on its website.
It cited the sentencing of Hangzhou-based democracy activists Lü Gengsong and Chen Shuqing to 11 years and 10 1/2 years' imprisonment in June.
The alleged “evidence” against them focused on essays published on overseas websites and their activities with the banned opposition China Democracy Party (CDP), it said.
Government official Guo Enping was locked up by police for 10 days after he criticized the government's efforts to beautify the city ahead of the G20 summit, CHRD said.
Guo, who argued that the work done to put Hangzhou on display had greatly disrupted residents’ lives and businesses, was accused of "fabricating rumors" and "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble" online, it said.
Meanwhile, requests from the family of veteran democracy campaigner and Hangzhou native Zhu Yufu for his release on medical parole had fallen on deaf ears, the group said.
"[Zhu] suffers from life-threatening health conditions, including heart disease, cerebral vascular sclerosis, and hypertension," it said.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Lee Lai for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.