China steps up suppression of human rights in wake of Nobel Peace prize
China has declared its one-party political system to be unshakeable and redoubled a campaign to suppress human rights in the wake of the award of the Nobel peace prize to Liu Xiaobo, the democracy activist.
If the Nobel committee hoped to encourage greater openness in China by awarding its prize to Mr Liu last Friday, the move appears to have had the opposite effect.
Scores of other activists and lawyers have been either placed in temporary detention or under house arrest and China on Tursday shut down a leading internet forum for free speech, called 1984.
"Those who oppose [the present system] will fall under immense pressure in the near-term as the authorities resort to active suppression to deal with further acts of defiance that might arise from Liu Xiaobo receiving the prize," said Mo Zhixu, a Chinese columnist.
Mr Liu's wife, Liu Xia, has also been placed under house arrest and said that she had "no idea" when she would be released.
Mrs Liu said her husband had asked her to travel to Norway in December to accept the prize on her behalf. His lawyer, meanwhile, said they are now considering whether to petition for a retrial to reverse his 11-year prison sentence.
The United States has called for restrictions on her to be lifted, and for her husband to be freed, but has so far only succeeded in infuriating the Communist party with its interference.
"Some politicians from other countries are trying to use [the Nobel peace prize] as an opportunity to attack China," said a spokesman for the Foreign ministry. "If people try to change China's political system in this way and try to stop the Chinese people from moving forward, that is a big mistake".
Almost all of China's leading activists are now uncontactable, with one human rights lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, now missing for over 36 hours.
Xia Yeliang, an economics professor at Beijing university, was among the scores of intellectuals and activists to have his communications cut.
"I have good phone reception, but I cannot make or receive calls. I did not expect the Communist party to resort to such extreme measures after the Nobel Prize award. Do they want to turn China into North Korea?" Zhang Jiannan, the 27-year-old founder of 1984, a 10,000-strong members-only bulletin board which was heavily used by activists, said yesterday he had been forced to shut the site after his family was threatened.
"I am still under house arrest, with three people monitoring me. I cannot go out, not even for a jog. I was summoned to the police station this morning and I told them I would shut down the site.
"The police already went to my company and I got fired. And then I got kicked out by my landlord after they pressured him. My wife and I are living in an apartment owned by her grandfather, but yesterday the police started to delve into my wife's files, as well as those of her parents and her grandparents. That was the last straw that broke me," he said.
Michael Anti, a Chinese journalist and internet expert, said 1984 had been "the only online forum with any freedom of speech" in China. "The Nobel Prize was the trigger for its closure and for putting Zhang under house arrest. In the next year or so, I expect freedom on the internet to be fully suppressed. The general trend is definitely not moving towards greater openness."