updated 12/13/2004 8:29:16 PM ET 2004-12-14T01:29:16

Chinese authorities have detained liberal author Yu Jie and pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo, sources close to the men said late Monday, in what appeared to be part of an intensified government crackdown on intellectuals.

The Communist Party, which has monopolized politics in China since 1949, recently stepped up its crackdown, ordering newspapers and magazines not to give publicity to Yu and five other intellectuals critical of the party.

“Yu Jie was summoned for questioning at 6 p.m. (1000 GMT) today and accused of doing things endangering national security,” lawyer Mo Shaoping told Reuters.

Police did not elaborate on the charges Yu faced, but they can hold him for a maximum of 12 hours, the lawyer quoted Yu’s wife, Liu Min, as saying.

Liu Xiaobo was taken into police custody for unknown reasons, sources close to him said.

Writers feel political heat
Liu, 49, is president of China PEN, which in October bestowed the Free Writing Award on Zhang Yihe, author of the banned best seller “The Past Is Not Like (Dissipating) Smoke” about Mao Zedong’s 1957 anti-rightist purge of intellectuals.

Yu, 31, is a board member of China PEN, a member of International PEN, the literary association founded in Britain in 1921 to defend freedom of expression.

State security agents had warned several writers not to attend the award ceremony, which was shunted to a village near the Huanghuacheng section of the Great Wall to avoid the watchful eyes of the security apparatus.

Freedom of assembly and association are enshrined in China’s constitution, but the Communist Party routinely jails those who dare to defy a ban on the formation of new political parties.

The Communist Party asserts that only it can dictate what constitutes good writing and who wins accolades.

Calls to Yu and Liu’s Beijing homes went unanswered.

Roots in Tiananmen protest
Liu, a literary critic, shot to fame as one of four men who staged a hunger strike on Tiananmen Square in the Chinese capital days before the army crushed pro-democracy demonstrations on June 4, 1989. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed.

Liu negotiated safe passage for student leaders out of the square hours before the massacre. He spent one and a half years in prison for his role in the ill-fated pro-democracy movement.

He was sent to a labor camp for three years in 1999 without a court trial.

Yu writes novels and political commentaries. The party’s propaganda czars have banned many of his books. His “Refusing Lies” was published in Hong Kong.

Other liberal intellectuals blacklisted along with Yu include Peking University journalism professor Jiao Guobiao and Chengdu University law lecturer Wang Yi.

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