China places prominent writers under house arrest as Kerry visits

China places prominent writers under house arrest as Kerry visits

BEIJING - A prominent writer who has angered China by advocating Tibetan rights said she and her husband have been placed under house arrest during a visit to Beijing by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Tsering Woeser (in photo) told Reuters state security officers prevented her and her husband, author Wang Lixiong, from leaving their home since they returned from a trip to the north of the country on Tuesday.

Wang has written several books on Tibet.

Kerry is in Beijing along with US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew for annual talks with Chinese officials on political and economic issues.

Woeser said she was detained after a US Embassy staffer phoned to inviting her to meet a US official for dinner.

The state security officers said the reason for their house arrest was "secret", Woeser said. She believes she is being held to prevent her from attending the dinner - possibly with Kerry or another member of the US delegation.

"I was on the road when they called and didn't realise Kerry would be visiting but found out later he would be in China," she said by phone.

Chinese state security organs could not be reached for comment.

China has ruled Tibet with an iron hand since troops marched in in 1950. Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, regarded by Beijing as a dangerous separatist, fled into exile in India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.

Chinese security authorities frequently detain activists or place them under house arrest ahead of important anniversaries, public events or state visits.

Several lawyers and activists were detained last month ahead of the 25th anniversary of the government's bloody suppression of pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square.

Woeser, who lives in an apartment building, said there were two police guarding their elevator and others stationed on the ground floor.

The US State Department gave Woeser an "International Women of Courage Award" last March, but she said Chinese authorities would not allow her to travel to Washington to accept the prize.

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