09/20/2005, 00.00
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More than 100 anti-eviction activists arrested in Shanghai

International human rights group says clampdown is related to rising popular unrest in China's luxury capital. Detainees are subjected to violence and psychiatric treatment.

Shanghai (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Police have arrested more than 100 petitioners involved in protests against official evictions in Shanghai. The action signals a significant toughening by authorities following a barrage of street protests throughout China largely due to forced land grabs caused by urban renewal, a Human Rights in China (HRIC) report said.

Protesters were rounded up on the street, on buses and some in the middle of the night and most of the detainees remain in custody, the report said.

The crackdown was organised by the Shanghai Petitions and Letters Office, which is in charge of receiving citizens' complaints, and the Jing An District Public Security Bureau, or police.

Detainees who refused to cooperate were beaten; some were told they would be sent to a mental hospital. One of them, Zhang Fenfen, had previously been forced to undergo psychiatric treatment by the judiciary for having an "obstructionist personality."

Among others arrested was Mao Hengfeng, who was recently released from a labour camp where she said she underwent forced electric shock therapy.

None of the petition organisers could be reached and police were not available for comment.

Last week a Chinese activist campaigning against government land requisition and forced evictions was prosecuted and is awaiting a verdict.

Under Chinese law, citizens have the right to petition the government, but the millions of annual complaints of official corruption and police abuse and misconduct usually go ignored.

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