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Group: Police detain would-be Olympics protester

Aug. 12, 2008, 11:30 p.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) A Chinese activist who applied for permission to protest against corruption during the Olympic Games has been taken away by security agents, a rights group said Wednesday, the latest in a series of detentions during the politically sensitive period.

Ji Sizun came to Beijing from the southern province of Fujian and wanted to demonstrate in one of three protest zones Chinese officials have designated for the games, Human Rights Watch said in a news release.

Ji, 58, wanted to call for "greater participation of Chinese citizens in the political processes, and denounce rampant official corruption and abuses of power," the group said.

He applied at the Deshengmenwai police station on Aug. 8, the day the Olympics began, and disappeared three days later, when he went back to check on his application, it said.

"Eyewitnesses said Ji entered the police station at around 10:45 a.m. on August 11. At 12:15 p.m., he was escorted out of the building and put into a dark-colored, unmarked Buick by several men who appeared to be plainclothes policemen," the group said.

Ji's cell phone was turned off on Wednesday. A man who answered the telephone at the Deshengmenwai police station said no one had been arrested or taken away.

"Petitioners have the right to apply. We don't dare to touch them," said the officer. He refused to comment further and said he was too busy to give his name or position.

In July, China said protests would be allowed during the Olympics in three public parks far away from the main sports venues. Liu Shaowu, security chief for the Beijing Organizing Committee, said applications to hold demonstrations must be filed five days in advance and would receive a response at least 48 hours before the requested rally time.

The protests must not harm "national, social and collective interests," he said in comments posted on organizing committee's Web site.

No protests have been reported so far in the zones. At least one of them is closely watched by what appears to be plainclothes agents, who film passers-by.

Police have not responded to repeated requests to reveal how many applications have been submitted or approved.

Activists were rounded up in the days running up to the Olympics and more have been taken away since the games began - a common move by Chinese authorities to curb potential dissents during the competition which is supposed to showcase China as a world power.

On Tuesday, the son of a housing activist who was taken by authorities from her home last week, said his mother has been officially detained for a month for "disturbing social order."

The activist, Zhang Wei, who has been a vocal opponent of her family's forced eviction, had also tried to apply for permission to protest publicly, said her son, Mi Yu.