'The Chinese government is intensifying repression ahead of the 17th congress... as the climax of a months-long campaign to silence dissent and impose a veneer of social harmony on the capital,' New York-based Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.
The crackdown since August has included the 'abduction, arrest, or violent intimidation of dozens of perceived dissidents who the government fears may protest on the streets of Beijing', Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
The group quoted Yu Hongyuan, Beijing's deputy police chief, as saying in an internal speech in March that the government should 'harshly penalize one person in order to ... frighten many more into submission' in the run-up to the party congress and next year's Olympics in Beijing.
Last month, Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang urged his forces to guard against 'destabilising and uncertain factors,' singling out 'hostile forces' - which normally include political dissidents - as well as separatists, terrorists, religious extremists and members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.
'This week we're seeing the culmination of months of targeted tightening of controls on media, the internet, and freedom of movement for dissidents designed to impose stability during the party congress,' Sophie Richardson, the Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said in the statement.
The Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) group listed dozens more detentions and abuses of rights activists in the run-up to the congress.
CHRD said activists who attempted to raise human rights concerns during the preparations for the Olympics had 'faced swift and harsh punishment.'
It said the abduction and beating of Beijing-based rights lawyer Li Heping on September 29 was 'a sign of more brutal measures being taken by the Beijing secret police as well as blatant abuse of their extrajudicial powers.'
Authorities also evicted an estimated 4,000 petitioners from a shanty town in Beijing's Fengtai district last month, claiming the land was needed for a road project.
'Dozens of petitioners evicted from the Fengtai settlement have ended up in extrajudicial detention at a de facto private jail in Beijing where they are held incommunicado and denied access to legal counsel,' Human Rights Watch said.
'This abuse of petitioners rights clearly demonstrates the Chinese Communist Party's intolerance of criticism, particularly during the party congress,' it said. (more)