HONG KONG—Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Guizhou have detained an activist who applied to hold a symposium on World Human Rights Day next week, one year after Chinese democracy activists signed a charter calling for political reform, his relatives said.
Guizhou police are believed to have detained Chen Xi, organizer of the human rights symposium, after escorting him away from his home, his wife said.
Chen had still not returned home late Monday.
"He has not yet come back and I don’t know his whereabouts," his wife said.
"This is definitely related to World Human Rights Day," she said.
Fellow activist Li Renke said police had told the symposium organizers that they would have to apply to register the event, and that it couldn't go ahead.
"I told them that there was no law requesting a symposium to be registered, and there was no such thing as a pre-registered symposium either," Li said.
"Therefore, their banning the symposium was illegal."
Police in Zhejiang also stepped up surveillance of activists ahead of World Human Rights Day.
Zhejiang-based activist Zhu Yufu said police were sitting outside his house, carrying out round-the-clock surveillance.
"I asked them why, and they said they didn’t know," Zhu said.
"And I asked when they were going to leave, and they said didn’t know that either."
He said the government appeared to fear Dec. 10 as a possible date on which activists might spark social unrest.
"The authorities have taken the date of Dec. 10 as the day for them to resist the megatrend of democracy in the world," Zhu said.
"Watching me is probably from the fear that I might organize a petition or something. The Communist Party is now very feeble,” he added.
Elsewhere in China, activists marked the first anniversary of the signing of Charter 08, a document calling for broad political change in China, with calls for the release of Liu Xiaobo, its main author.
Liu, 54, was detained at his Beijing home on Dec. 8 last year, two days ahead of the official release of the Charter, also on World Human Rights Day.
Rights lawyer Zhang Jiankang organized a gathering of 10 Charter 08 signatories in the central province of Shaanxi at the weekend.
The meeting issued an appeal for the immediate release of Liu Xiaobo, called on the government to recognize Charter 08 as a publicly debatable topic, and called on activists to broaden their campaign to promote the Charter in society.
"Sooner or later, China will be on the road of constitutional democracy," Zhang said.
"Worried about their own vested interests, the authorities cannot accept the sudden change of democratization, so they have to take harsh measures to prevent those changes from happening, including banning the Charter," he said.
Another group of Charter 08 signatories met in the eastern province of Shandong on Saturday.
One participant, retired professor Sun Wenguang, said the signatories were doing nothing wrong.
"We wish more people would sign, and we also want the authorities to respect human rights and release Mr. Liu Xiaobo," Sun said.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Xin Yu and Ding Xiao. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated by Chen Ping. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.