Amnesty Says China Police Detain Hundreds

March 8, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: March 8, 2006 12:00 am

BEIJING – Chinese police have rounded up hundreds of petitioners who converged on Beijing to air grievances during the ongoing session of China's parliament, rights group Amnesty International said.

Police raided hostels in Beijing on the night of Tuesday last week and detained more than 400 people who had come from around the country, the group said in a statement seen on Wednesday.

The group did not say what happened to those detained. In earlier round-ups, most have been forced on to trains and buses and sent home without charges being filed.

Last year, China revised its rules on petitioning, one of the few avenues for the disgruntled to seek redress, to make local authorities more accountable.

Critics said the regulations were an attempt to keep the growing number of angry people from China's vast countryside out of Beijing.

Rubber Stamp Parliament

Round-ups of petitioners are routine security around the annual meetings of China's rubber-stamp parliament, which opened its current session on Sunday.

Police also cracked down on dissidents before the parliament meeting began, detaining and questioning an outspoken human rights lawyer in Beijing on Saturday after reportedly grabbing at least eight democracy campaigners involved in hunger strikes.

Unrest has increased in China in recent years, mostly sparked by corruption, government land grabs and the widening wealth gap between cities and rural areas.