Police have continued to detain rights activists and anti-corruption campaigners during a top-level meeting of the ruling Chinese Communist Party in Beijing, as President Xi Jinping looks set to take steps to ensure loyalty within party ranks, analysts said on Tuesday.
Police in the southwestern province of Sichuan detained Huang Qi, veteran rights activist and founder of the Tianwang website, his colleagues said.
"They took Huang Qi away at 9.20 p.m. on Monday evening," Tianwang volunteer Pu Fei told RFA on Tuesday. "The police confirmed to us that they have detained him, but apart from that, we haven't heard any news of him since."
He said Huang is unlikely to have broken the law.
"If the police are just detaining people on the pretext of maintaining stability then I think that will have a detrimental effect on society and on social stability," Pu said.
"We hope that they will release Huang Qi as soon as possible."
Before his detention on Monday, Huang told RFA that he had received a phone call from police asking for a meeting.
"They wanted to meet with me but I refused," he said. "They didn't say why, [but] I know that as soon as they see me they'll put limits on my personal freedom."
Meanwhile, authorities in the central province of Hubei also detained Liu Feiyue, who founded the Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch website.
Online activist Xiucai Jianghu said the detentions are likely linked to the sixth plenum in Beijing.
"I don't really see what use it is, limiting people's freedom for a brief period of time," he said. "They're still going to say whatever they have to say."
"Even if they lock them up for several years, they will still be saying it when they get out."
Xi as "core" leader
President Xi Jinping looks likely to be formally endorsed as a "core" leader of the ruling party at the current plenum, potentially putting him on a par with former paramount leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, whose authority mustn't be challenged.
The move will involve a change in 1980 rules aimed at preventing any leader from becoming the new focus for a Mao-style personality cult.
The meeting is also likely to approve an internal code of political conduct to rein in party members, banning them from making off-message statements in public or on social media and tightening rules on graft, analysts said.
Hu Dehua, son of late ousted premier Hu Yaobang, told RFA that any effective anti-corruption drive needs to allow for input from the general public. Currently, whistleblowers and anti-graft activists are often handed lengthy jail terms.
"If you don't involve the public, then you've just got a situation in which the officials are supervising themselves, and I think that's a big problem," Hu said.
"The Communist Party are the people who hold the power, and they should be held to higher standards than the rest of society," he said.
And former Party School political theorist Du Guang said a system-wide approach is needed to stem systemic graft.
"There is no separation of powers right now, and the party runs the government; runs everything," Du said. "That's why it's so hard to eradicate corruption."
"They may shout slogans about corruption ... but political power just isn't heading in the direction of the people."
Beijing-based historian Zhang Lifan said Xi's focus will be on "party discipline" at this week's secretive meeting, however.
"We will see at this plenum whether or not the party's Central Committee confirms Xi Jinping as a 'core' party leader," he said.
"If that is confirmed, then he won't need to crack the whip to deter potential rivals within the party through the use of internal disciplinary measures," Zhang said.
Scratching the surface of corruption
He said further factional strife could follow if Xi's "core" status wasn't approved, however.
"If his core status isn't confirmed at the sixth plenum, then the next year ahead of the 19th Party Congress will be very unpredictable," he said.
As for the nationwide anti-graft campaign, which has reportedly netted one million corrupt officials to date, Shandong-based dissident Zhang Enguang said Xi's government can only ever scratch the surface of the problem.
"There have been anti-corruption campaigns for as long as the Chinese Communist Party has been in power: we've done nothing but fight corruption, and yet it's still with us," Zhang said.
"We have to face up to reality, which is that all power is concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority, and ordinary people have no power at all," he said.
"They have no civil and political rights, no right to freedom of expression, nor to oversee the government, which is why corruption has continued to thrive."
The plenum, which runs through Oct. 27, is the sixth full meeting of the 18th Congress of the Communist Party Central Committee that convened in November 2012, during which Xi took charge of the party, replacing former party head Hu Jintao.
Reported by Yang Fan and Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.