Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Shanghai to restrict dissidents during Olympics

24 June 2008

BEIJING (AP) — Shanghai has banned dissidents, Falun Gong members and other regime critics from leaving the city during the August Olympics, a human rights group said Tuesday.

The Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said the Shanghai Public Security Bureau sent notices to dissidents, petitioners and underground religious followers informing them they are required to check in with local police every week.

The new rules also bar them from leaving the city without permission and forbid them from talking with foreign media about political issues, the group said in a news release.

Falun Gong, a spiritual movement rooted in Buddhism, Taoism and traditional Chinese beliefs, has been ruthlessly persecuted since being banned in 1999 by the government as an "evil cult."

The information center said the order instructed recipients to "not make trouble in public places" and "not fabricate or distort the truth, spread rumors or use other ways to disturb the social order."

The regulations, in effect from April 1 to Oct. 31, were "to ensure social security during the Beijing Olympic Games," according to a copy of one notice provided by the group.

Anyone violating the rules "may be warned, detained or face criminal punishment," the notice said.

Staffers who answered the phone Tuesday at the public security bureau refused to confirm the new regulations, saying they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Shanghai bans troublemakers leaving city during Olympics

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's financial hub of Shanghai has sent notices to dissidents, petitioners and other "controlled" people banning them leaving the city during the Olympics to ensure security, a rights group said on Tuesday. They are also not allowed to give their political opinions to the foreign media, leave the country or store weapons or explosives at home, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said in a statement.

A Shanghai police spokeswoman said she could not immediately comment, but added she was unaware of the existence of such a notice.

"In order to strengthen public order during the Olympics and ensure the Games go smoothly, these are the rules important controlled people in our area must follow from April 1 to October 31," according to a copy of the statement provided by the centre.

"Do not pick quarrels in public places", "Do not express any political opinion to foreign reporters" and "Do not distort the truth, intentionally spread rumours or use other methods to whip up and disturb social order", the rules state.

Those who break the rules would be warned, detained or prosecuted, depending on the severity of the charge, it adds.

The centre said the notice had also been sent to members of the banned spiritual sect Falun Gong and members of underground religious groups.

China, which already claims to have cracked domestic terror plots targeting the Games, is taking no chances with the Summer Olympics, opening in Beijing on August 8.

It has tightened up on visas for foreigners and last week ran the Olympic torch relay through the sensitive regions of Tibet and Xinjiang virtually as military exercises, guarding the route with both police and soldiers.

(Writing by Ben Blanchard)

(For more stories visit our multimedia website "Road to Beijing" here ; and see our blog at blogs.reuters.com/china )

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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