China detains charter co-organiser in Nobel crackdown

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 10, 2010 05:50 hrs

Beijing, Dec 10 (DPA) China has detained the co-organiser of the Charter '08 for democratic reform amid a sweeping crackdown on activists ahead of Friday's award ceremony for the Nobel Peace Prize, rights groups said.

Police seized Zhang Zuhua as he was returning home from lunch Thursday, forcing him into a van and taking him away, the Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Defenders reported.

Zhang was one of the main organisers of Charter '08 with Liu Xiaobo, the jailed dissident writer awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

The detention of Zhang came 'amid a wave of disappearances and threats' against scores of activists ahead of the Nobel award ceremony in Oslo, the group said.

Nearly all prominent rights activists have been detained, held under house arrest or have disappeared since the prize was announced Oct 8.

Rights lawyer Teng Biao, another of the 303 signatories of Charter '08, said police told other lawyers Thursday that they were asked to implement two days of 'special measures' against the activists.

Teng's two mobile phone numbers were cut off Thursday, he said in a Twitter post.

Police have held Liu's wife, Liu Xia, under house arrest at the couple's Beijing apartment since Oct 8. Her two mobile phone numbers were cut off in mid-October.

Several activists were forced to leave their homes and stay temporarily at police-run hostels.

China Human Rights Defenders said it had received 'reports throughout the day of other activists and dissidents being similarly forced to 'travel' by police'.

It said Beijing-based dissident scholar Cui Weiping and journalist Gao Yu were 'taken away to undisclosed locations', while police in the north-western city of Xi'an also forced activist Yang Hai and rights lawyer Zhang Jiankang to leave their homes.

Border police also detained rights lawyers He Weifang and Mo Shaoping, who were both invited to Oslo by Liu Xia, as they were waiting to board a flight to London last month.

Police also prevented renowned artist Ai Weiwei and dissident economist Mao Yushi from leaving China, apparently fearing that they might have planned to attend the Nobel ceremony.

Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in prison in December 2009 for his part in organising Charter '08.

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