Sweep Targets 'Sensitive' Individuals Ahead of NPC

china-npc-march-2013.jpg Paramilitary police stand guard on Tiananmen Square in Beijing on March 3, 2013.

As China gears up for annual parliamentary meetings in Beijing and the swearing in of a new president, police have launched a nationwide security clampdown on anyone considered "sensitive," including rights activists, lawyers and dissidents.

Democracy activists He Depu, Zha Jianguo and Gao Hongming are currently being held incommunicado or under house arrest, activists said on Monday.

He Depu said police had begun staking out his Beijing home on Feb. 25.

"Whenever I want to go out, I have to travel with them, so I'm not able to move freely," he said. "It's the same every year."

He added that there appeared to be fewer people on duty since Xi Jinping became head of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, however.

Similar measures were taken to restrict the movement of Hangzhou-based dissidents Lu Gengsong and Zou Wei, the latter said in a brief interview after being taken away from his home by state security police.

"Today I was taken 'on holiday,'" said Zou, adding that he had been taken to the Nongjiale resort outside Hangzhou. "This will be until the parliamentary meetings are over."

"Pretty much everyone is under 24-hour surveillance," he said.

Beating and detentions

In Shanghai, veteran democracy activist Yang Qinheng was beaten by police after being taken away by state security police shortly after leaving his home.

The beating came when Yang tried to resist having his camera and other valuables confiscated from him. He was detained for more than eight hours in total, he said.

Fellow Shanghai activist Li Huaping said he was also summoned to the local police station for questioning, for the second time since Feb. 28.

"I was questioned for eight hours," Li said. "The state security police told me that on Feb. 28 it was because the out-of-town parents were protesting discriminatory educational opportunities outside the education bureau in Shanghai."

"They said that there was a large meet-up to have dinner together by citizens in Pudong [district], and that they were concerned about this event," he added.

In the eastern province of Anhui, police raided the home of politicial activist Li Wenge, taking him away with no formalities after he tried to meet with fellow activist Che Hongnian from neighboring Shandong.

Eventually, the two men were allowed to meet in a hotel under police supervision, activists said.

Hubei-based Liu Feiyue, who runs the People's Livelihood Watch website, said fellow activist Shi Yulin had been summoned to his local police station and told to wait there during the day.

"He was told to wait there and read, and they didn't let him go until 10:00 p.m.," Liu said. "Two policemen then followed him back home and stayed overnight in his home."

"This has been going on for three days now, and it won't stop until after the parliamentary sessions are over."

Liu said fellow Hubei dissident and veteran opposition party activist Qin Yongmin had signed an agreement with police in recent days.

"Of course he is being followed everywhere during the parliamentary sessions, and the state security police visit him every day," he said.

Liu said he had himself been told to cut the number of articles published on his website and and to stay off sensitive or hot topics.

"I can't report anything sensitive and I can't give interviews to the media," he said. "Of course, I can't go out, either."

"Qin Yongmin made a deal with them to quit all his activities and activism [for the duration], so he's being allowed to stay home," Liu said.

No representation

In the eastern province of Zhejiang, Internet activist Wu Bin, known by his online nickname "Xiucai Jianghu", said the National People's Congress (NPC) had little to do with the lives of ordinary Chinese, however.

"Every year they come up with a bunch of proposals that have little to do with reality," Wu said.

"These delegates aren't elected by the people; they are picked by higher ups," Wu said. "They don't represent the people."

"So of course they have to please those in charge, so as to gain greater wealth and glory; they dare not say anything too feisty."

Retired Shandong University professor Sun Wenguang said that most delegates to the NPC and its advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), were bureaucrats themselves.

"Every provincial governor is also an NPC delegate, so they're all in it together," Sun said. "They have no intention of changing anything in society."

"They just perform at the sessions, and adopt the official point of view. They look like they're asking questions, but most of them are totally empty or fake."

Premier Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao, who have ruled China for the past 10 years, will step down formally at this year's NPC annual session, which begins in Beijing on Tuesday.

Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping will be sworn in as president, along with premier-in-waiting Li Keqiang.

Reported by Fang Yuan and Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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