Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong detained two rights activists after they attended a U.S. election night party run by the American Chamber of Commerce, which one activist said had been infiltrated by state security police.
Guangzhou-based rights lawyer Tang Jingling said he had been placed under house arrest by local state security police shortly after leaving the AmCham election night event at the Grand Hyatt in Guangzhou.
"The authorities sent secret agents to infiltrate the event," Tang said. "I left ... after it was over, and I got a call from the state security police the moment I switched my phone back on."
"They said they wanted to meet with me, and they took me back home from a location near the party venue."
Tang said he had been warned not to leave home "for the time being."
"They told me a while back that I wasn't allowed to go and watch the live broadcast of the U.S. presidential elections."
'I wanted to experience it'
Labor activist Li Yuanfeng, who is also based in Guangzhou, said police also searched his home last Wednesday after he attended the party, confiscating his computer, camera, and cell phone.
"After I got home, the police came to my home and asked me why I had gone," he said. "After that, they detained me and put me on a train."
Li said he had gone "to soak up the atmosphere," although he hadn't received a formal invitation.
"Some people had invitations, but others didn't," he said.
"There were probably upwards of 1,000 people there," Li said by phone on Tuesday from Hunan. "There was live coverage of the elections, and a simulated election."
"I just wanted to experience it just once."
After the party, police escorted him to his home province of Hunan, where he no longer lives, warning him not to return to Guangzhou.
The U.S. elections were a trending topic in many online platforms in China, while unofficial online polls showed overwhelming support for incumbent candidate Barack Obama, who won a second term as president in the Nov. 6 vote.
Chinese netizens followed the U.S. elections particularly closely ahead of China's own leadership transition, which is being decided behind closed doors at a secretive congress of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Nine members of China's highest decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, are due to step down at the this week's 18th Party Congress, where 2,270 delegates will deliberate on the new generation of leaders.
However, delegates to such congresses rarely vote against the Party leadership, and debates and power struggles within Party ranks are largely kept from public view.
President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao will be among those leaving their positions, while Vice President Xi Jinping and Vice Premier Li Keqiang are widely tipped to replace them.
Authorities have launched a nationwide security clampdown during the Party Congress and the once-in-a-decade leadership transition, sending rights activists to labor camps and forcing lawyers and dissidents to leave their homes or remain under house arrest.
In the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, relatives of an imprisoned veteran pro-democracy activist voiced fresh fears over his deteriorating health in detention.
Former opposition party activist Zhu Yufu's wife Jiang Hangli said her husband had recently collapsed in the Zhejiang No. 4 Provincial Prison and yet the authorities had refused permission for more clothes or an increased food ration.
"He has high blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as hardening of the arteries," Jiang said. "There is a nutritious meal in the prison that you can have once a week for 11 yuan (U.S$1.77), but they wouldn't allow it."
Zhu was given a seven-year jail term in January for "incitement to subvert state power" after he penned a poem calling on the Chinese people to vote with their feet.
The procuratorate’s indictment cited as evidence a poem, “It Is Time,” that Zhu wrote and shared during online calls for 'Jasmine' rallies inspired by protests in the Middle East in early 2011.
Reported by Lin Jing for RFA's Cantonese service and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.