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Wednesday, September 9, 1998 Published at 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Police drag dissident's wife from hotel

Mrs Chu said she was punched and kicked

Chinese police dragged a dissident's wife screaming from a Beijing hotel where UN human rights chief Mary Robinson delivered a speech urging democracy.

Mrs Robinson later told reporters she had raised the case with Chinese authorities.

The woman, Chu Hailan, who was later released, was hauled by plain clothes police and security guards through the lobby of the Hilton Hotel.

Mrs Chu, the wife of jailed labour activist and novelist Liu Nianchun, has been battling tirelessly for his release.

After she was freed, Mrs Chu said three plainclothes security had punched and kicked her and pulled her hair during detention in the hotel's security room.

"It's too barbaric," she said. "One of them stepped on my stomach and it felt like my intestines were being squeezed out."

[ image: Mrs Robinson was unaware of the drama when she arrived]
Mrs Robinson was unaware of the drama when she arrived
The plainclothes police had seized her letter for Mrs Robinson in which she asked the United Nations human rights chief to help seek the release of her husband who was ill.

She said she was taken to a police precinct near her home before being freed at dusk.

Mrs Chu was bundled away moments before Mrs Robinson, the first UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit China, delivered a speech urging democracy.

"Obviously, I was very concerned when I heard about the incident," she told reporters.

'Blocking entrance'

The official Xinhua news agency quoted a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman as saying Mrs Chu was taken away because she was blocking the hotel entrance.

It was the first incident of its kind since Robinson arrived on Sunday for a 10-day visit.

On Tuesday a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman appeared to rule out any meeting between Robinson and dissidents.

Chinese dissidents, who have urged Robinson to meet them during her visit, have been placed under tight police surveillance.

Mrs Robinson will meet judicial officials, representatives of women's groups and ethnic minorities and visit Tibet during the trip.

UN official said it was still unclear who Mrs Robinson would meet in Tibet, where Western human rights activists say Beijing is trampling on freedom of religion among the predominantly Buddhist population.

Only one foreign journalist, a cameraman with an Irish television station, has been approved to accompany her on the three-day trip which begins on Thursday.

Mrs Robinson said: "The visit is going well, it's not easy and I hope that there are not unreal expectations of what can be done on a visit of this kind.''

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