China has stepped up security in Beijing and Tibet ahead of a key political anniversary on Friday, when carefully organized groups will sing revolutionary songs in praise of the ruling Communist Party.
An employee who answered the phone at a guesthouse in the Tibetan capital Lhasa said police had stepped up checks on the entire industry
in recent days.
"They come in the middle of the night and in the early morning," the employee said.
"Tomorrow is July 1," the employee said, referring to the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. "Here, if they don't have an ID card, we can't let them stay."
As the nation's capital tightened security ahead of the anniversary events, Wang Kouma, a petitioner from Shanghai, said he was currently
being held in a Beijing hotel room by police after being detained by officials from the Shanghai municipal representative office in the capital.
"They put me in this hotel, where there are a lot of people watching me," Wang said. "They are just outside the door of my room, and they
won't give me my freedom."
"My mother was persecuted to death and I am seeking redress on her behalf, but I'm not even free to pursue a complaint."
China’s army of petitioners say they are repeatedly stonewalled, detained in “black jails,” beaten, and harassed by the authorities if they try to take a complaint against local government actions to a higher level of government.
Activists are becoming increasingly vocal about China’s “black jails,” which they say function as detention centers holding protesters without due process or right to appeal.
Among the petitioners are disgruntled veterans of the Party's own People's Liberation Army (PLA), who launched a nationwide campaign in the run-up to the anniversary, calling for better benefits and conditions.
Meanwhile, Fujian petitioner Ji Sizun said he had been detained in the provincial capital Fuzhou on Monday as he tried to board a train for Beijing.
"They have stripped me of my right to travel to Beijing, and I strongly protest this," Ji said. "I should have got on the train, but I was grabbed and dragged off by more than a dozen people."
"They dragged me to this tiny room," he said. "This is a serious breach of the law."
Petitioners said the number of ordinary Chinese traveling to Beijing to pursue grievances against the government had swelled ahead of the
Party's 90th anniversary on Friday, as petitioners hoped their cases would get a more sympathetic hearing.
China is billing Friday's anniversary as "a birthday party for one billion people," organizing celebratory events up and down the country.
In a special edition on Friday, the ruling Communist Party mouthpiece, the People's Daily, will laud the "close bond" that has developed
between the Party and the Chinese people, official media reported.
The editorial will say that the Party's close bond with the people has resulted in the successful revolution, development, and reform of the
country over the last 90 years.
However, it warns those in power not to get complacent.
"All comrades of the Party must always keep in mind that the source of strength for economic development and social progress comes from close dependence on the people, trust in the people, and consideration of the people's fundamental interests," it says.
Hoping for justice
According to Liao Wenfeng, who is pursuing a complaint against officials for beating her son into a crippled state, said the Beijing-bound petitioners hoped to find justice for all manner of complaints against the government.
"We all came to Beijing to petition together," said Liao, adding that some people were forcibly evicted from their homes or land, while others had lost loved ones or become ill as a result of official wrongdoing.
"We wanted to go to Tiananmen Square [and take a group photo], but we couldn't get in," she said.
The Party will organize choirs of people in government agencies, state-owned firms, schools, and residential communities across the country to sing revolutionary songs from the Mao era on Friday, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
"The most widely-sung red songs include 'East is Red,' 'Without the Communist Party, There is no New China,' and 'Sing a Folk Song to the Party,'" Xinhua said.
Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.