Clampdown on Hangzhou Activists

Police take no chances ahead of parliamentary session.
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Security personnel patrol on Segway-type vehicles in Beijing, March 4, 2011
Security personnel patrol on Segway-type vehicles in Beijing, March 4, 2011

An attempt by around 10 opposition party activists in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou to meet at a restaurant was broken up by police ahead of an annual parliamentary session in Beijing, activists said on Friday.

"As soon as I opened my door this morning [the police] came over," said Zhu Zhengming, supporter of the banned China Democracy Party (CDP).

"I think it basically has to do with the parliamentary sessions, but it was never this strict before," he said.

Previously, activists would get verbal warnings as opposed to actual restriction of their movements.

The country's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), convenes on Saturday.

Chinese authorities have raised security measures to unprecedented levels, dispatching hundreds of thousands of security personnel and citizen volunteers in the capital in the wake of online calls to emulate the spirit of the “Jasmine Revolution” in Tunisia, which triggered uprisings elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East.

Police at home

Fellow Hangzhou-based CDP activist Wang Rongqing declined to come to the phone on Friday. His wife indicated that there were police officers in the couple's home.

"Yes, [the police are here in our home]," she said. "It's not convenient to talk right now."

CDP activist Chen Shuqing said he had been followed by plainclothes police on Friday morning when he went to the market to buy food.

"They were following behind me when I went out to buy groceries," Chen said. "Wherever I went, they went too."

"They kept their distance and pretended we didn't know each other," he said, adding that the police stepped up their surveillance at the weekends, when the anonymous organizers of Middle-East inspired "Jasmine" rallies had called on people to turn out in protest against official corruption.

Chen said he and around 10 other Hangzhou-based activists had arranged to meet in a restaurant on Friday, but that now looked impossible.

"This year is different, because of the special circumstances of the 'Jasmine revolution'," he said. "They are pretty nervous and jumpy."

"We were all going to meet up together to drink tea and have a chat about what's going on, but then they found out about it," Chen said.

"The local national security police approached me yesterday and warned me not to attend the gathering ... I can't attend the gathering now."


Also in Hangzhou, dissident Wu Yilong was summoned to the police station for questioning, while activist Wei Shuishan's cell phone was turned off.

The clampdown comes after CDP activists called on the NPC to investigate China's overseas aid packages.

"This overseas assistance has never contained any mechanism for democratic supervision," Chen said. "The leaders just dictate policy according to their own will."

Prominent CDP founder member Zhu Yufu agreed that the authorities seemed far more nervous than usual this year.

"I told them that this was a battle that would be fought online, a war of nerves, and that the people should be allowed their rights," Zhu said.

"I told them that they would be the ultimate losers."

Zhu said that police had become angry with him for giving interviews to foreign media.

"This young guy ... told me I was America's running dog ... I asked him how much money his family had stashed in overseas bank accounts."

"I told him he was nothing but a doorman imitating the accent of his employers, and he blushed."


Meanwhile, authorities in the southwestern province of Sichuan have detained Luzhou-based activist Wang Chengming for more than a week in the wake of online calls for a Jasmine revolution, which have triggered a high-level security response in publicized locations for the protests across China.

"He has been in detention for five or six days now," said Wang's wife, Zhu Xiaofang. "I was going to visit him because he was unwell, but the police told me I couldn't because he was 'an important person.'"

Zhu said she had had no official notification of her husband's detention, nor any idea when he would be released.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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