10/11/2007, 00.00
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More dissidents arrested as CP congress approaches

Rights activists and religious leaders “disappear” or are placed under house arrest. Beijing streets are crawling with police stopping anyone who appears to be a possible petitioner.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Preparations for Communist Party Congress set to open on October 17 in Beijing also include making rights activists and religious leaders “disappear” or placing them under house arrest.

Yao Yao reported his father, Yao Lifa, missing on October 1. From rural Hubei province in central China, Yao Lifa is known for his dogged campaigns to win an independent seat in his local Party-controlled Qianjiang congress and his attempts to organise citizens, especially disgruntled farmers, to challenge long-standing restrictions on political activity.

“I heard from a source with good information that he's been put in detention, probably until after the congress, but we haven't heard anything official," said Yao Yao, who is currently studying in New York.

Hua Huiqi, an outspoken leader of a Christian ‘house church’ in Beijing who was only recently released from jail, was also placed under house arrest.

“Whenever there's a big meeting or event, the government keeps him under house arrest or tails him,” said Hua's wife, Wei Junmei, who said by phone that she was also under informal detention with him.

AIDS activist Hu Jia has been under house arrest since May but said the plainclothes security around his flat has been intensified since September.

More generally, the streets of Beijing have been crawling with police and plainclothes guards. They question and often take away passers-by whose ruddy features and rumpled clothes suggest they may be rural petitioners intending to air complaints about lost land, corruption and official abuses during the Congress.

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