Authorities in the Chinese territory of Macau moved to thwart protests calling for the release of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) during the first ever visit by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) yesterday.
Immigration officials in the former Portuguese colony refused entry to a prominent opposition lawmaker from nearby Hong Kong, Albert Ho (何俊仁), who planned to join in the protests.
Ho, chairman of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, said he and four other activists were stopped and briefly detained before being sent back to Hong Kong.
“They said we would be causing a threat to internal security,” Ho told reporters. “I’m not surprised, but this shows the Macanese government is not respecting freedom of expression and opinion.”
Macau police stepped up security ahead of Wen’s arrival and said they had been notified that at least five local groups would stage protests, according to local media.
Another Hong Kong legislator, Lee Cheuk-yan (李卓人), was also expected to join in the protest.
Wen is attending a two-day economic forum with ministers from seven Portuguese-speaking countries, including Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates and officials from Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and East Timor.
Liu was jailed in December last year for 11 years on subversion charges after co-authoring Charter 08, a petition calling for sweeping political reform that has been circulated online and signed by thousands.
China has said the honor was tantamount to “encouraging crime” and warned European and other governments not to support the veteran activist.
Macau and Hong Kong were both handed back to China by their respective colonial powers in the 1990s and given separate constitutions that guarantee various freedoms not available on the mainland.
Yesterday, Wen said he wanted to see China raise annual trade volume with Portuguese-speaking countries to US$100 billion by 2013.
“As our economies rapidly grow, our common interests have been expanding and our mutual needs increasing,” he told conference delegates.
Wen’s trip comes less than a week after Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) wrapped up a visit to Portugal with pledges to support its battered economy.
Hu held off committing to buy Portuguese debt however, as Beijing pledged for debt-battered Greece last month.
The Portuguese government said two of its major lenders signed deals with the Bank of China and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, to identify investment opportunities in the world’s second-largest economy.
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