Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Guizhou have detained or placed under house arrest at least four activists who tried to hold a conference on human rights in the provincial capital.
Organizer Mo Jiangang said the event had been planned to coincide with Human Rights Day and with the award of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo on Friday, but that authorities had begun a clampdown this week.
"Chen Xi and Liao Shuangyuan were forcibly taken away by officers from the local police station on the evening of Dec. 6," Mo said.
"Today, Liao Shuangyuan, Wu Yuqin, and Chen Xi are being forced to 'take a holiday' out of town. I, too, am about to be taken away," he said.
Mo said the activists expect to be returned to their home city of Guiyang by Dec. 13, when the Nobel award ceremony is over.
"There's nothing we can do about it," he said. "I am being forced to leave Guiyang and take a trip."
Beijing has stepped up pressure on political activists since Liu, currently serving an 11-year jail term for subversion, was named the Nobel Peace Prize recipient on Oct. 8.
It has hit out at the award as an insult to the country's judicial system, refused to attend the ceremony, and put pressure on diplomats from other countries to boycott the prestigious event.
The Nobel committee said on Tuesday that China and 18 other countries had declined invitations to attend "for various reasons, including Russia, Vietnam, and the Philippines."
China on Tuesday called the Nobel committee members "clowns," saying many other countries also oppose Liu's award.
"Those at the Nobel committee are orchestrating an anti-China fuss by themselves," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.
"We are against anybody making an issue out of Liu Xiaobo and interfering in China's judicial affairs," Jiang said. "We will not change because of interference by a few clowns."
House arrest for activists
Liu's wife, Liu Xia, and many of his fellow activists are under a form of undeclared house arrest, a condition that is not expected to end until after the Dec. 10 Nobel award ceremony in the Norwegian capital of Oslo.
Large numbers of lawyers, rights activists, and writers have been prevented from leaving China ahead of the event.
In Guizhou, Wu Yuqin, who is married to Liao Shuangyuan, said her husband had been taken out to a hotel in the suburbs of the city.
"Yesterday evening they took Chen Xi and Liao Shuangyuan to the Post Office Guesthouse, which is in the suburbs of Guiyang," Wu said. "Now they are keeping watch outside my house."
"I told them I had to take care of my sick mother, and they said they would escort me there at 2:00 p.m.," she said.
Wu said that police already knew about the plan to hold the conference at the totem pole in Guiyang's Riverside Park.
"It's also the day that they award the [Nobel] prize to Liu Xiaobo," she said.
"They are afraid that we will turn the event into a celebration, so they have detained people."
Rights Day crackdown
Fellow Guiyang-based activist Wang Zang said that police had just arrived to take him away.
"I am in the bathroom right now," Wang said. "There are six or seven of them, and they're going to take me away out of town."
"It's because of Human Rights Day, and also because of the Nobel prize ceremony, so the crackdown this year is particularly harsh," he said.
The nongovernment Guizhou Human Rights Conference announced their event to mark Human Rights Day in November, but have been subjected to increased pressure by local police, Mo said.
"They have sent people to follow us and intercept us. We are all at considerable political risk," he said.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service and by Grace Kei Lai-see for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.