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As Kerry Visits, China Places Prominent Writers Under House Arrest

Well-known Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser poses for a photo in Inner Mongolia in northern China, June 23, 2014.
Well-known Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser poses for a photo in Inner Mongolia in northern China, June 23, 2014.

A prominent writer who has angered China by advocating Tibetan rights said she and her husband have been placed under house arrest during a visit to Beijing by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Tsering Woeser told Reuters state security officers prevented her and her husband, author Wang Lixiong, from leaving their home since they returned from a trip to the north of the country on Tuesday.

Wang has written several books on Tibet.

Kerry is in Beijing along with U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew for annual talks with Chinese officials on political and economic issues.

Woeser said she was detained after a U.S. Embassy staffer phoned to invite her to meet a U.S. official for dinner.

The state security officers said the reason for their house arrest was “secret”, Woeser said. She believes she is being held to prevent her from attending the dinner - possibly with Kerry or another member of the U.S. delegation.

“I was on the road when they called and didn't realize Kerry would be visiting but found out later he would be in China,” she said by phone.

Chinese state security organs could not be reached for comment.

China has ruled Tibet with an iron hand since troops marched in in 1950. Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, regarded by Beijing as a dangerous separatist, fled into exile in India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.

Chinese security authorities frequently detain activists or place them under house arrest ahead of important anniversaries, public events or state visits.

Several lawyers and activists were detained last month ahead of the 25th anniversary of the government's bloody suppression of pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square.

Woeser, who lives in an apartment building, said there were two police guarding their elevator and others stationed on the ground floor.

The U.S. State Department gave Woeser an International Women of Courage Award last March, but she said Chinese authorities would not allow her to travel to Washington to accept the prize.

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