Hundreds of Chinese citizens converging on Beijing to air their grievances have been detained as authorities intensify security before the Communist Party of China (CPC) begins a sensitive party meeting over the weekend, reports said.
The Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee will be held in Beijing between November 9 and 12 and is expected to set the tone for China's development and reform in the next decade.
President Xi Jinping, also the CPC general secretary, will be chairing the meetings along with the top members of the CPC including the six members of the elite standing committee of the CPC politburo.
Historically, the third Plenum has been the platform for announcing far-reaching economic reforms including the opening up of the Chinese economy in the late ‘70s.
For many Chinese citizens from across the vast country with huge rural swathes, the gathering of the top leadership in Beijing provides them an opportunity to speak out of their troubles.
But hundreds of individuals have been detained from precisely doing that as authorities see them as examples of social instability and having the potential to disrupt or at least cast a shadow of unease over the secretive and sensitive CPC meeting.
“Police and officials have already detained or intercepted more than 300 former People's Liberation Army (PLA) officers who were hoping to have their cases heard ahead of the third plenary session,” a Radio Free Asia (RFA) report said.
“Basically, more than 300 people have been sent home under escort, while more than 1,000 are under tight surveillance or house arrest by authorities in all cities, provinces and autonomous regions,” Sun Enwei, a PLA veteran from the eastern province of Zhejiang, told RFA's Mandarin Service.
Many petitioners were allegedly rounded up by police and taken to Majialou, an unofficial detention center on the outskirts of the capital this week, Xu Lingyong, a disabled petitioner from the northern province of Shaanxi, said.
“They used security guards and police officers to force us onto buses,” he told RFA , adding: “They are clearing all those who come from other cities and provinces out of Beijing.”
A similar rounding up of people with grievances is done before every important meeting of the CPC. With social unrest apparently on the rise, the government is not willing to take a chance.
Security has evidently been tightened in the city with more security personnel seen patrolling the streets, bus, subway and railway stations. Sniffer dogs have also been deployed at many crowded parts of Beijing.
Following last week’s Tiananmen attack, guest houses and hotels have also been directed to be on alert for “suspicious” guests.