Freedom of expression advocates say Chinese authorities are staging a new crackdown on intellectuals who criticize the government. Sources on Tuesday said authorities interrogated and then released two well-known writers and a political theorist after they spoke against government policies.
Writers Yu Jie and Liu Xiaobo angered officials after they wrote in support of a poet and journalist named Shi Tao, who was recently jailed.
Police raided Yu Jie's home in Beijing Monday, accusing him of leaking state secrets. Speaking after his release Tuesday, Mr. Yu said he intends to keep writing.
Mr. Yu says he is simply a writer who expressed his opinion about China and society. He said he did not deserve the treatment he received from authorities. He says China's government should not try to control people's thoughts.
Mr. Yu says this type of oppression highlights what he describes as the "contradiction" in Chinese society, at a time when economic growth is occurring, but political change is not.
Liu Xiaobo is a prominent dissident who has been jailed several times. Also detained this week and released on Tuesday was Zhang Zuhua, a former Communist Youth League official and liberal political theorist.
Analysts say the arrests are part a new effort by the administration of President Hu Jintao to crack down on dissent. Julian Pain of the group Reporters Without Borders, a free speech advocacy group in Paris, says authorities fear the influence exerted by intellectuals in China today.
"These writers are the new generation of intellectuals. They are using the Internet to spread their ideas and to criticize the government," said Mr. Pain. "Really, the Chinese government doesn't know how to control them, because even if they try to threaten these persons, they are bold enough to keep on writing."
The crackdown comes despite hopes that President Hu would move toward further liberalization after he consolidated his power this year. Mr. Hu took full control of the government and the Communist party in September following the retirement of former president and military chief Jiang Zemin.
Advocates say state-run newspapers have new orders to stop publishing articles about such topics as economic disparity and the grabbing of land by officials. Stories on these issues had appeared in the state-run news earlier, but analysts say the government has recently determined they are too sensitive to publish.
Meanwhile, the New York-based Human Rights in China group is expressing concern about the fate of dissident Lu Decheng, who was arrested in Thailand this week. Mr. Lu fled China a month ago. He had been sentenced to 16 years in prison for his role in the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing, which were crushed by army troops.
HRIC says Thai authorities have threatened to return the activist to China, where the group fears he may face severe punishment. Mr. Lu was in the process of applying for refugee status in Thailand.