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In China, new crackdown on dissidents

Scores of arrests are to ensure a protest-free Party Congress, say rights groups.

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As China's ruling Communist Party holds its most important conclave in five years, the government has launched an unusually harsh crackdown on potential troublemakers, say Chinese and international human rights groups.

Scores, perhaps hundreds, of petitioners, democracy activists, religious figures, and human rights workers have been abducted, imprisoned, or confined to their homes over the past six weeks, according to rights monitors.

"This definitely seems to be the worst in years," says Phelim Kine, a Hong Kong-based researcher with Human Rights Watch. "It is much, much more comprehensive and wide-ranging" than earlier sweeps.

So, as delegates to the ruling Communist Party listen to their leaders' speeches and discuss the state of the nation at their 17th Congress here this week, at least one voice will not be heard: Yu Tongan, a peasant farmer in southern China. He would never have got into the most important meeting on the Chinese political calendar. But in the time-honored tradition of petitioners, he had hoped to buttonhole one of the delegates to seek redress for his son, who suffered brain damage after a government-mandated vaccination. Instead, he is trapped in his village by two plainclothes policemen standing guard outside his front door since Thursday. "I just wanted to find someone who would talk to ordinary people," Mr. Yu explained by telephone from his home. "But the police told me I am not allowed to leave or I will be arrested."

Move keeps Party meet protest free


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