Chinese authorities are blocking visits by friends and fellow activists to rights activist Feng Zhenghu, who has been held under house arrest at his home in Shanghai for the last four months, amid growing concerns over his health.
Police detained a group of more than 20 Shanghai-based petitioners, ordinary Chinese who try to pursue legal complaints and grievances against the authorities, on Saturday as they approached Feng's home, according to petitioner Wang Kouma.
"It seems the police were ready for us," said Wang, who was among the group trying to visit Feng. "We hadn't even got to the gates when they saw [petitioner] He Maozhen and took [that group] away.
"After we got inside the gates, I was the first person they detained."
Wang said police had accused him of "organizing" the visit. "They found a place to drink tea with me and talk, and they didn't let me go until 4.30 p.m.," he said.
"The other petitioners managed to get as far as Feng Zhenghu's apartment building, where they shouted slogans and unfurled banners," Wang added.
The banners read "Illegal detention of the innocent: a crime against reason and heaven—Give Feng Zhenghu his freedom back."
Fellow activists have expressed increasing concern over the health and welfare of Feng, who is suffering from persistent diarrhea.
Wang said he had recently spoken to Feng, who first came to international attention when he camped out in Tokyo's Narita Airport in protest at China's refusal to allow him back into the country. He continued his rights activism after eventually being allowed back to Shanghai.
He said Feng has also been summoned to the police station to answer questions every day since he gave an interview last week to Hong Kong's Ming Pao newspaper in which he rejected official claims that Tiananmen veteran activist Li Wangyang killed himself.
"I heard that Feng Zhenghu was summoned again on Saturday and again on Sunday," Wang said. "They didn't let him out until about 6.00 p.m. on Sunday."
"He has been summoned [every day] for a week, now. After he gets there, he has to sit there until 6.00, 7.00, or 8.00 p.m.," he said. "Now he can't receive phone calls."
'An illegal detention'
In a case that is strikingly similar to the treatment of blind Shandong activist Chen Guangcheng, who has begun a new life in the U.S. as a visiting legal scholar following his dramatic escape, anyone who tries to visit Feng is being intercepted by police, Wang said.
"This is, in fact, an illegal detention," Wang said. "Our Constitution has always emphasized respect for human rights, but what the authorities are doing is against the law."
Feng was jailed for three years in 2001 for "illegal business activity," and has since been a prolific online writer and critic of alleged malpractice by local governments, especially on the issue of forced evictions.
In 2009, he was refused re-entry into China eight times, remaining in the immigration hall of Narita International Airport for 92 days before finally being readmitted to his home country.
Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.