Activists, Petitioners Not Invited to Party Congress

To ensure that the 18th Party Congress runs harmoniously, authorities have recruited an army of 1.4 million volunteers, further disrupted internet access, placed restrictions on fruit knives, taxi windows, ping pong balls, pigeons and remote controlled toys, and deployed teams of orange-clad firefighters in Tiananmen Square to guard against self-immolators. In addition, security forces have moved to keep Beijing free from those seen as likely troublemakers. From Tom Lasseter at McClatchy:

A story Monday by the Xinhua news wire reported that a senior security official had recently been “inspecting a security ‘moat’ project created in areas encircling Beijing for the congress’ smooth holding.” There was apparently no water involved, just a lot of police.

The story quoted Zhou Yongkang, a standing committee member who oversees domestic security, as urging authorities in Beijing and surrounding regions to form a “solid defense . . . thus creating a safe, orderly, auspicious and peaceful environment for the successful holding of the 18th National Congress.”

Amnesty International released a statement last week that gave an idea of what that might mean: More than 100 activists have been rounded up so far.

“The police have placed dozens of activists under house arrest, forcibly removed individuals from Beijing and have closed down the offices of community groups in attempts to suppress peaceful dissent,” the group said. “Scores of activists are believed to be held in ‘black jails’ across the country. . . . Hotels, hostels, basements of buildings and farm centers have all been reportedly used as black jails.”

A major thrust of the campaign has been to block petitioners from reaching the capital. The Telegraph’s Tom Phillips visited Lü Number 3 Team Village on the outskirts of Beijing:

Lu is home to around 700 permanent residents, many of whom supplement their incomes by renting shoddily built shacks to aggrieved men and women bound for Beijing to seek assistance from the central government.

“I don’t care who the tenants are, as long as they pay,” said the owner of one of dozens of cramped guesthouses, who rents rooms for 10 yuan (£1) a night or 200 yuan (£20) a month.

But the village’s once-crowded guesthouses stand largely empty this week after police and security forces moved in to weed out potential troublemakers ahead of the highly sensitive leadership transition.

The state media has dubbed the crackdown the “zero petitions” policy. A report in the Global Times newspaper last month claimed”petitioning cases” in Beijing had fallen 12% since August, after 10,000 detentions.

Activists already in Beijing have faced house arrest or strong pressure to leave the city. From Gillian Wong at The Associated Press:

The crackdown has extended to lawyers such as Xu Zhiyong. He said Beijing authorities have held him under informal house arrest since mid-October, stationing four or five guards outside his apartment in Beijing around the clock.

[…] Even dissidents’ relatives have come under pressure. Beijing activist Hu Jia said he was warned by police to leave town, and that even his parents told him that police had told them to escort him to his hometown.

“My parents said to me: ‘Hu Jia, you don’t know what kind of danger you are in, but we know,’” he recounted in a phone interview from his parents’ home in eastern Anhui province. “They said: ‘Beijing is a cruel battlefield. If you stay here, you will be the first to be sacrificed. Don’t do this.’”

Also pressured to leave Beijing was writer Wang Lixiong, whose Tibetan wife Woeser had already left for Lhasa. Wang wrote in a New York Times op-ed, translated by Perry Link:

The Communist Party has, for the sake of its own meeting, asked that my wife leave me and that I leave my elderly mother, who is too old to live without someone to care for her. Incidentally, she joined the Communist Party in 1947 (two years before the founding of the People’s Republic, and a time when joining was still dangerous) and did so in order to oppose the reigning Nationalist government, which she saw as “lacking humanity.”

Now, I want to ask her, “What do you think of the humanity of the Communist Party today?” but cannot bring myself to inflict on her the pain that the question would bring.

I have replied to State Security that a party conclave is no reason to disperse a family. They, in turn, threatened that if I refused to leave, things would become “uncomfortable” for me. They did not say how. I have decided to wait at home and see. What does a party that vows before the entire world that it follows the rule of law have in mind for my discomfort?