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Authorities seek to prevent dissidents from talking to foreign media, tell some to leave Beijing during Olympic Games

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns an increase in measures aimed at preventing Beijing-based human rights activists from talking to the foreign media. "These measures unfortunately recall those adopted by the Soviet police during the 1980 Olympics Games, when dissidents were forced to leave Moscow," the press freedom organisation said.

With just one week to go before the 2008 Olympics, the authorities have advised several dissidents and intellectuals living in Beijing to "take a trip" during the games or risk being placed under house arrest. Dissident Qi Zhiyong has been forced to leave the city with his daughter. His mobile phone has been confiscated and he will be kept under close surveillance during his "trip." Qi nonetheless possesses a "hukou," a permit to reside in Beijing.

Hong Qisheng is another dissident who has warned by the police but he has refused to leave Beijing. His wife said: "My husband received a call from the police, asking him to leave the city. I think it is because of the Olympic Games. The police asked us to return to our province of origin during the games but we said we would not go. The police then threatened to arrest my husband. Hong replied that the authorities could lock him up, but he would stay in Beijing."

Zhang Zuxian, an intellectual, has received similar threats. He told a Radio Free Asia journalist: "We must stay, for freedom's sake. It is illegal and costly to act like this. It is like throwing money out of the window. Some of my friends have already been arrested while others have been expelled from the capital. We are not wanted for any crime and we are not terrorists. The police are using archaic methods."

Several human rights lawyers have been contacted by the Public Security Bureau and told to stay in regular contact with the police. At the same time, the police presence around their homes and places of work has been stepped up. Zeng Jinyan, the wife of imprisoned human rights activist Hu Jia, has been asked by the police, who watch her night and day, not to contact her friends or the media any more. The authorities have also advised her to take a trip during the games.

Friends of Beijing-based intellectual Liu Xiaobo have been trying without success to reach him on his home and mobile phone numbers.

For further information on the Hu Jia case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/93659

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