China closes political umbrella factory

Monday, June 7, 2004

HONG KONG -- China has closed a factory that produced umbrellas with the words "direct elections" printed on them and detained its owner, an activist said Sunday.

Shiu Yeuk-yuen said the factory had already shipped 3,000 of the umbrellas -- to be used at a march planned for July 1 to demand universal suffrage in Hong Kong -- when the facility was closed.

He said the factory owner, whom he declined to identify, was taken in for questioning by police in the southern city of Shenzhen on May 27 and released on Friday.

"He was told he was taken in because of the umbrellas," Shiu said.

An operator at Shenzhen police offices said no one was available for comment.

Shiu and fellow activists denounced the move as an indirect violation of the freedom of speech promised to this former British colony that was handed back to China in 1997.

"They're really nervous up in China," he said.

Many in Hong Kong want full democracy, but China's communist government said in April the territory can't hold direct elections for its next leader in 2007 and all lawmakers in 2008.

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