HONG KONG—Authorities in Shanghai are holding dozens of protesters in a resort outside the city after they went to Beijing to complain about the demolition of their homes to make way for the 2010 World Expo, which ends this month.
Gao Yuqing, a petitioner from the Huangpu district of the city, said she was among a group of around 30 people brought back from Beijing where they tried to lodge an official complaint against Shanghai authorities over alleged forced evictions.
"They said we couldn't go anywhere," said Gao, from her room inside the unnamed holiday resort. "I had another shouting match with them."
"I said there was nothing in the police procedures to legitimize their announcement."
Gao said the police had just read out an official notice telling the petitioners that they were banned from visiting Tiananmen Square, in central Beijing.
"They said we couldn't go anywhere," she said. "Right now, if I were sick, I wouldn't be allowed out to see the doctor. There are elderly folk and children back at home who need me to take care of them."
National Day roundup
Petitioners said Shanghai officials had also beaten and detained petitioner Shen Peilan after she tried to leave her home on the Oct. 1 National Day holiday, against police instructions.
"They had already warned her not to leave home on National Day, otherwise they would take action against her," said Huangpu petitioner Xu Zhengqing.
"After she left that day, they dragged her into a car and beat her with sticks and kicked her until she lost consciousness."
She said Shen was released after she went on a hunger strike for three days. "They took her back again because they were afraid she would get sick."
Xu said that many of Shanghai's petitioners had left town during the sensitive National Day holiday in early October, with only a handful daring to visit the Shanghai municipal complaints office.
But she said many of the petitioners were already planning to return to Beijing to protest during the Communist Party Congress later this month.
"In a few days, it will be the Party Central Committee meeting from Oct. 15-18," Xu said.
"A lot of people are keeping a low profile until then, lying low to avoid surveillance. Some have probably left town altogether," she said.
Call to implement policies
Wu Mingyue, another eviction protester brought back to Shanghai after she tried to lodge a petition in Beijing, said she was also being held in a hotel.
Wu said police wanted her to sign a document pledging never to return to Beijing.
"They kept telling us that our complaint would eventually be sorted out," Wu said. "But our issue has never been addressed. We have made many trips to Beijing, sometimes several times a month."
"The government's policies sound great, but we want them to be implemented," she said. "That's what the ordinary people want. It's that simple."
A second group of protesters was detained shortly after they entered the World Expo venue, according to petitioner and rights activist Ma Yalian.
"Yesterday, a group of us decided to go there together," Ma said. "Around 20 or 30 police officers surrounded us and forced us to leave the Expo grounds."
She said fellow petitioners Xu Jinfeng, Zeng Jianming, Feng Yuzhen, and Huang Shihua refused to have their details recorded.
"At around 6 p.m. they shut me up in a hotel room," Ma said. "The other people weren't allowed to go home until very late in the evening."
Detentions during Expo
Ma said this was the third time she had been detained since the Shanghai Expo began in April. She said that she doesn't expect to be released until the Expo closed on Oct. 31.
She said police had also detained a fellow petitioner, Xiang Wenying, together with a one-year-old child. "There were three of them including a one-year-old child who were locked up under soft detention in a hotel," said Ma, who has also acted as legal advocate for another Shanghai eviction protester, Wu Yuping.
Wu is currently serving an 18-month term in a labor camp after she was seized in Beijing near government buildings during the November 2009 visit of U.S. President Barack Obama.
The opening of the 2010 World Expo was attended by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, and other world leaders.
The six-month, U.S. $4 billion Expo, on the theme of sustainable urban living, has drawn millions of visitors to pavilions from almost 200 countries.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Fang Yuan and in Cantonese by Lin Jing. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.