Authorities in Shanghai are holding a prominent housing rights activist under house arrest amid a nationwide clampdown on any form of protest or dissent triggered by recent uprisings in the Middle East.
Petitioner Shen Peilan, 60, who launched a campaign to remove top officials in the Shanghai municipal government, said she was now under police guard at her home in Maqiao township, Minhang district.
"I am under 24-hour surveillance right now," said Shen, who began campaigning for her rights after being evicted from her home in 2003.
"I can't go out. If I go out, I will be snatched away."
Shen said she believes the orders for her house arrest had come from the highest levels of the city's leadership.
"Some friends of mine called some officials in the Maqiao township government, and they ... told them that this wasn't any action on their part," Shen said.
"They said it was a direct order from [Shanghai mayor] Han Zheng."
Shen has been detained nearly 100 times since 2000, when she began petitioning on behalf of around 3,000 families who were forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for the 2010 World Expo.
Shanghai authorities beat and detained Shen after she tried to leave her home on the Oct. 1 National Day holiday last year, against police instructions.
Shen was released after she went on a hunger strike for three days.
She said in an interview on Wednesday that she had launched the campaign to remove top government officials and hold a public demonstration after she tried to attend a public consultation session held by the Shanghai government. The meeting was so full of people that most were unable to register their view, she said.
"We are now proceeding according to the law," she said. "We are executing our rights as citizens, and applying to have the relevant officials removed from office."
Shen said that the process had to begin with a motion from the district People's Congress, and that she had already handed in a petition of more than 1,000 names to local delegates.
"There are eight officials we want to have removed, including the Maqiao township mayor, the chairman of the Minhang district People's Congress, and the district state prosecutor," she said.
The petitioners also listed the chairman of the Shanghai People's Congress and the head of investigation at the Supreme People's Court, she said.
Shen was visited at her home on Wednesday by around 40 supporters.
Wang Deming, head of the politics and law committee of the Maqiao township Party committee, declined to comment on Shen's allegations.
"I don't know about this," Wang said. "I am at a conference ... in Wuxi."
China's ruling Communist Party faces thousands of mass protests a year across the country, often related to allegations of official wrongdoing, but usually with a local focus.
Protesters and petitioners repeatedly complain of forced evictions from their homes, the sale of their farmland without compensation, and mistreatment by law enforcement agencies.
Chinese authorities investigated 2,723 corrupt officials at or above the county level in 2010, including 188 at the prefecture level and six at the ministerial level, according to the state prosecution service.
Premier Wen Jiabao recently warned the government that its biggest political risk comes from corruption.
But he ruled out political upheaval of the kind recently seen in the Middle East, indicating that reforms would take place under the aegis of the Communist Party.
Reported by Dai Weisen for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.