The corruption trial of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai has sparked a wave of detentions of petitioners and rights activists, several activists said this week.
"According to our investigations ... several hundred people had their freedom curtailed during the trial of Bo Xilai," Huang Qi, founder of the Sichuan-based rights group Tianwang, said in an interview.
"More than 20 people were detained at the scene," Huang said, referring to the Intermediate People's Court in the eastern city of Jinan where Bo's trial ended on Monday.
"We call on the Chinese authorities to release Yang Xiuqiong and other people who were criminally detained or had their freedom restricted after they went to observe the Bo Xilai trial," he said.
Sichuan-based rights activist Yang Xiuqiong was detained at the start of Bo's sensational trial, which ended on Monday with demands from prosecutors for a "severe" punishment for the former ruling Chinese Communist Party chief for Chongqing at the heart of a murder and corruption scandal.
Police told Yang, who was detained while tweeting live from outside the court buildings, that she would have to wait until Wednesday for her notice of criminal detention, the Tianwang website reported.
She stands accused of "taking part in a Bo Xilai organization," "attending meetings in Jinan in support of Bo Xilai," and "taking part in the counterrevolutionary website Tianwang," the report quoted sources close to the case as saying.
"[They should] end what is a further infringement of the rights of Chinese citizens," Huang said.
Authorities moved on Monday to delete comments in support of the charismatic and popular Bo, netizens wrote on the Twitter-like service Sina Weibo.
Bo's crimes of bribery, embezzlement, and abuse of power were "extremely serious," and there were no mitigating factors, prosecutors told the court.
Bo, meanwhile, likened the case against him to the plot of a "bad soap opera," revealing what he said was a tangle of love relationships between himself, extramarital lovers, his wife Gu Kailai, murdered British businessman Neil Heywood, and his former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun.
In what has been the most politically charged trial of a former high-ranking Party member since that of Mao's wife Jiang Qing in 1980, the outspoken Bo mounted a feisty defense, cross-examining witnesses, admitting "responsibility," but pleading not guilty to all formal charges.
The highly sensitive trial also prompted police and officials in a number of locations to step up controls on local activists and petitioners, ordinary Chinese who seek redress for alleged official wrongdoing.
Petitioner held, wife beaten
Shandong-based petitioner Yang Hailong was criminally detained on Tuesday for "theft" after being held under administrative detention for 10 days ahead of Bo's trial, his relatives said.
Yang's wife Yan Min said she was beaten by a police officer during a raid on the couple's home after a verbal altercation, as officers prepared to confiscate two bank deposit books.
"I said how can you, in the uniform of a law enforcement officer, swear at me, and he said that he wouldn't just curse at me, he'd beat me up, too."
"I was holding my child at the time, and he hit me on my head, and there was blood coming out of the corner of my mouth," Yan said.
She said police had confiscated a computer, two bank deposit books, and a cell phone, before leaving.
Yan's brother, Yan Kai, said the authorities had detained Yang after he was found handing out leaflets complaining about official corruption in his home county of Yinan at Beijing's Capital International Airport earlier this month.
"They were just looking for a way to contain him," Yan Kai said. "So they detained him on some trumped-up charges."
"They did this because Yang Hailong went to petition in Beijing, and they were afraid he would get over-excited and draw attention to himself."
"That's why they locked him up—to stop him getting in contact with the outside world."
'Orders from higher up'
Meanwhile, retired Shandong University professor Sun Wenguang said he had been questioned by local police after speaking to foreign journalists about the Bo trial by telephone.
"My phone is being monitored, and as soon as they found out, they sent someone round here to tell me I wasn't to give interviews," Sun said on Sunday.
"I told them I had the right to give interviews, but they said it was orders from higher up," he added.
"Now, there are two people sitting outside my apartment door, preventing anyone from coming in, and they won't let me out," Sun said.
"They told me this would be relaxed again after the [Bo] trial was over."
Reported by Qiao Long and Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.