Chinese police blocked a prominent human rights lawyer from attending a Beijing dinner hosted by German leader Angela Merkel, the lawyer said on Friday, February 3 the latest example of restrictions on unorthodox views in a sensitive year.
German diplomats from the embassy in Beijing had early on Thursday invited Mo Shaoping to a dinner with Merkel, who is in China on a three-day visit, to discuss the Chinese legal system and issues facing lawyers, Reuters reported.
The incident could focus renewed attention on human rights in China. Merkel told reporters on Thursday she had "a frank dialogue" with Chinese leaders on human rights.
But state security officers told Mo he was not allowed to meet Merkel on Thursday night, citing "orders from leaders above" but without providing any legal evidence, Mo said. "They said: 'The 18th Party Congress is coming up, we must maintain stability, we can't have different voices present'," Mo said, referring to congress of the ruling Communist Party that convenes late this year.
Mo, who has defended many dissidents critical of Communist Party rule, said the other person invited to the dinner, Wu Si, editor in chief of the Chinese magazine "Yanhuang Chunqiu" that is read by many retired officials, was able to attend.
Chinese courts have handed down heavy jail sentences to three dissidents since December for "inciting subversion" or "subversion" -- charges that the government often invokes against people critical of Communist Party rule.
"On several human rights issues, we have, at times, thought China's response is somewhat harsh," Merkel told reporters on Thursday, adding that she stressed the importance of freedom of expression and free access and discourse on the Internet.