China today launched its most prolonged and severe crackdown on activists and dissidents in recent years ahead of tomorrow's Nobel peace prize ceremony honouring the jailed writer Liu Xiaobo.Scores – perhaps hundreds – of people have been placed under house arrest or surveillance, had communications cut off and been forced to leave the capital or prevented from travelling abroad. While such tactics are common before important events such as political meetings, it is rare for pressure to last so long and be applied so extensively. Amnesty International said it believed more than 250 people are affected.
"The scale and intensity are unprecedented. It is an attempt to prevent any voice supporting this prize coming from China," Nicholas Bequelin, the Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch, said.