HONG KONG—Chinese authorities have swooped down on supporters of jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo across the country, as they tried to organize celebratory events in honor of the award announced in Oslo on Friday.
Rights activists Xu Zhiyong, Wang Lihong, and Zhao Changqing, poet A'erji, and Wu Gan, an activist from Fujian currently living in Beijing, were all detained separately by police as they tried to meet in the Ditan area of the city for a meal in honor of Liu's award.
Wu, a prominent online activist known on the Internet by his nickname "The Butcher," said the police had told them only that they were being detained for questioning.
"Right now, the reasons for our detention aren't really clear," said Wu, speaking from the bathroom of the local police station.
He Yang, among those detained on their way to a celebration in Beijing, said he wasn't released until Saturday evening.
"I was detained alongside Zhang Yongpan," said He, who was prevented from making phone calls for several hours during his detention.
"At the time, I thought that they had detained only the two of us."
Also in the Chinese capital, rights lawyer Teng Biao said he was taken away by national security police on Saturday evening as he was on his way to meet a journalist, while a second rights lawyer, Li Xiongbin, was held under house arrest, Teng said.
"The national security police had been following me all along, and they wouldn't let me meet [the journalist]," Teng said.
"They forced me into a car and took me to the university's security department, and then they kept watch outside my apartment building," he said.
Liu Feiyue, the Hubei-based editor of the China Rights Observer website, said he had been detained while leaving for a meeting with a group of non-state-employed teachers from around the province.
"The national security police found out about it, and there were a few of them waiting for me when I went downstairs," Liu said.
"They wanted to talk about Liu Xiaobo. I think they were worried that there would be some kind of celebratory event with the teachers."
"They told me they were acting on orders from higher up, and they took me out of town against my will."
"I told them their actions were an infringement of human rights and would only serve to create more Liu Xiaobos," said Liu Feiyue, who was brought back home late on Sunday.
Outlook 'still bleak'
Beijing-based rights activist Zhou Li said the outlook for the civil rights and political reform movement in China still looks bleak.
"These people have been detained, and right now we haven't heard anything about their situation," Zhou said.
"Everyone is still very worried about the people who have been detained."
She said she and a group of friends had tried to take some personal items to the detained activists in Beijing's eastern district police station on Sunday, but that there was no one to receive them.
"As we were standing there, we heard on a police loudspeaker an announcement saying that the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo was a blasphemy against the prize," Zhou said.
Meanwhile, Shandong-based retired university professor and pro-democracy activist Sun Wenguang said he had been prevented from letting off firecrackers to celebrate Liu's award along with more than a dozen friends.
Shanghai-based activist Xu Zhengqing said the official reaction against the award was entirely predictable.
"If the authorities didn't behave in such an repressive manner, then Liu Xiaobo would never have been given the Peace Prize in the first place," he said.
But he said large numbers of ordinary Chinese had already heard about the award, and many had been very surprised at the government's efforts to cover up the news.
"We are all hoping that the Nobel Peace Prize will boost the cause of democracy, freedom, and human rights," Xu said.
He called on the government to release Liu, along with "disappeared" lawyer Gao Zhisheng and jailed civil rights activist Hu Jia.
Also in Shanghai, activist Shi Feike was questioned on a public square on Friday evening where he had planned to meet with other netizens to celebrate Liu's award, according to a group of netizens who saw him talking to plainclothes police officers.
Meanwhile, in an Oct. 10 statement, the press freedoms group Reporters Without Borders criticized China's government for what it called its "disgraceful" act of blocking news within China of Liu Xiaobo's award.
"This frenzied censorship and propaganda effort confirms the importance of Liu's peaceful struggle for free expression in China," the group said.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Fang Yuan and Xin Yu, and in Cantonese by Bi Zimo. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.