Nobel Prize security clampdown in China
Beijing - Chinese security agents launched a wide-ranging clampdown on dissidents on Friday, hours ahead of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned democracy activist Liu Xiaobo.
Uniformed and plainclothes officers guarded the entrance to the compound in central Beijing where Liu's wife, Liu Xia, has lived under house arrest since the October announcement that her husband would receive the prize.
Officers have guarded her home since her house arrest, but were out in greater force ahead of the award ceremony.
Guards checked the identities of all who entered, while about a dozen journalists stood just outside the gate. Police cars were positioned on every surrounding corner, and officers patrolled outside the apartment block where the blinds were drawn on Liu's two-story unit.
Liu Xia's phone and internet connections have been cut off, and friends, family and colleagues in the country's embattled dissident community have been placed under house arrest or tight surveillance.
Several in the community, including renowned artist Ai Weiwei and human rights lawyer Mo Shaoping, have been barred from leaving the country, apparently out of fear they might attend Friday's award ceremony in Oslo. Others have been removed from Beijing by security agents to keep them out of the loop entirely.
Liu's award has elicited a furious and wide-ranging response from Beijing, with daily tirades in state media and regular denouncements from Foreign Ministry officials.
The vilification campaign has rocketed Liu from relative obscurity to worldwide fame, in apparent contradiction to the communist leadership's desire to negate his influence with an 11-year prison sentence for sedition.
The term was handed down after he co-authored a bold appeal for human rights and multiparty democracy.
While Liu has faced the brunt of Beijing's condemnation, scores of other dissidents and independent social activists have also come under pressure.
Numerous lawyers, academics and non-governmental organisation activists were prevented from attending a seminar on rule of law hosted by the European Union on Thursday due to being under house arrest or having been physically stopped by police officers, said EU ambassador Serge Abou.
"It's a pity, and in fact it's a shame," Abou said.