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Chinese make arrests to quell pro-democracy campaigns on the mainland
New York Times - October 10, 2014
Human rights advocates say more than three dozen people across the country have been taken into police custody since a campaign of civil disobedience over the pace of democratisation in Hong Kong began nearly two weeks ago.
Some of those arrested have already been charged with "picking quarrels and provoking trouble", a charge that carries up to three years' jail.
The detention of several people whose only apparent crime was to attend a private poetry reading underscores the anxieties of Chinese leaders over the stand-off in Hong Kong, the former British colony at the southern tip of China that enjoys more expansive liberties than the mainland.
Tensions are likely to remain high. On Thursday, Chinese activists on Twitter began circulating a call to converge on Tiananmen Square this weekend with umbrellas, the ubiquitous accessory and protest symbol adopted by the Hong Kong protesters.
The most recent arrests took place in and around Songzhuang, an artists' enclave on the outskirts of the capital and the setting for an October 2 poetry recital that drew the attention of security officials.
According to several artists and lawyers for those detained, seven of those taken into police custody had attended the poetry event, including an art curator and a Chinese news assistant employed by a German newspaper.
Several people were detained when the police arrived to break up the gathering, while others were taken away the following day. Among those arrested in recent days was Wang Zang, a poet and performance artist whose work is often politically provocative.
His wife, Wang Li, said he was probably singled out after posting on Twitter a photograph of himself, head shaved and holding out an umbrella, his middle finger raised in defiance. At his back was the national flag of Taiwan, the self-ruled island that China claims as its own.
By shaving his head, Mr Wang was also casting his lot with several other mainland activists, many of them also detained in recent days, who cut off their hair as a gesture of solidarity with the movement in Hong Kong.
His lawyer Sui Muqing said he thought the authorities were not inclined to show leniency. "He has been participating in grass-roots rights defence campaigns in a very high-profile way," Mr Sui said.