Chinese swoop on leading dissidents

FROM TERESA POOLE

in Peking

The petition from leading intellectuals last week was a plea for tolerance. Instead, the Chinese government responded by detaining five respected dissidents, including Wang Dan, the 1989 student leader, who was picked up by police at his home yesterday afternoon.

Mr Wang and Huang Xiang, detained last week, were among 45 academics, intellectuals and activists who signed the petition, calling for the release of Chinese imprisoned for their opinions, including those sentenced after the June 1989 pro-democracy movement. Mr Huang, a poet, was picked up before dawn on Thursday.

The ritual annual swoop on dissidents in the run-up to the 4 June anniversary of the bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square appears to be in full swing. Normally opposition figures are taken into custody or encouraged to leave Peking for a few weeks. Security has been tightened across the city.

One of the most vocal dissidents still at large, Mr Wang is regularly taken in for questioning and is under close surveillance.

Other detentions last week, which emerged only at the weekend, were of Wang Xizhe, an activist from the Democracy Wall era, who was released on parole in February 1993 after serving nearly 12 years of a 14-year sentence for "counter-revolutionary propaganda", and Liu Xiaobo, a literary critic who was imprisoned after June 1989.

Mr Liu was a signatory of two petitions this year to the National People's Congress calling for greater democracy and the rule of law.

The government is apprehensive ahead of this year's anniversary, even though the number of dissidents not in detention is small. Last week's petition will have added to its anxiety: the 45 signatories crossed the generations and included Wang Ganchang, 88, an eminent scientist and father of China's nuclear bomb. Evidence that a network of contacts has been established across such a range of opposition voices must concern the government as it prepares for the death, unlikely to be long delayed, of the paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping.

The author of last week's petition, Xu Liangying, 75, said yesterday: "The government is scared to death. But what are they scared of? ... We have no plans to stage demonstrations, we have never said we want to stage a demonstration. All we are asking for is tolerance."

There are also signs of top-level manoeuvrings ahead of Mr Deng's death. President Jiang Zemin is apparently masterminding a purge of potential hardline opponents at the heart of the Communist Party. The latest victim is Yuan Mu, replaced as head of the State Council's Research Centre. He was a strong proponent of the 1989 crackdown. Another hardliner, Chen Xitong, "resigned" last month as party head in Peking.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'