BEIJING (AFP) — Chinese police have banned a gathering of writers from taking place in Beijing on Saturday, sparking fears that authorities are continuing to crackdown on dissent ahead of the Olympics, a dissident writer said.
Around 20 people who planned to attend the year-end dinner of the Independent Chinese PEN society, a local branch of an international association of writers, have been barred from attending, its chairman Liu Xiaobo told AFP.
Some have been put under house arrest while others were warned by police to stay at home, he said. Some of the people put under surveillance were not even members of the association.
Police summoned Liu on Friday to tell him to call off the annual dinner, which was to be attended by up to 50 intellectuals from across China, he said.
"No reason was given, they just said it was an order from above," Liu told AFP.
One Shanghai-based writer and activist, Li Jianhong, has been detained by police in a hotel there since Wednesday and was told she was not allowed to attend the gathering, according to a statement on Chinese PEN's website.
Another writer Liao Yiwu, who had travelled to Beijing from his home in the southwest city of Chengdu, was put under house arrest in Beijing and was told he would be sent back on Saturday.
Liu declined to speculate on the reason for government intervention but said he was puzzled as authorities had tolerated annual dinners organised by the society since 2004.
"The crude intervention of the police has no legal basis and is without reason... it is a barbaric and illegal act from the law enforcers and is a blatant abuse of human rights," Liu said.
"It makes the government's promise to the outside world of 'Olympic human rights' ring hollow."
Despite China's pledge to ease curbs on media and individual freedoms ahead of the 2008 Olympics, human and media rights groups say Beijing's leaders are still intensifying their crackdown on dissent amid fears of social unrest.
In an August report, Reporters Without Borders said at least 30 journalists and 50 cyber-dissidents were being detained in China for work that had angered authorities.
It ranks China 163rd out of 167 nations on its global press freedom index.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »