BEIJING — Three Chinese dissidents disappeared Thursday after abruptly canceling a news conference at which they had planned to make a public appeal for the release of political prisoners.
Friends and relatives of rock singer Hou Dejian, 34, and intellectuals Zhou Duo, 43, and Gao Xin, 34, told reporters that Hou had sent a signed note from an unknown location, saying he had left on "personal business" and would not be back for a few days.
"We do not know where they have gone," said one of Hou's friends sitting in the singer's Beijing home. A police van was parked nearby, its occupants watching scores of foreigners come and go.
Friends said they did not know whether the three were in hiding or had been detained by police. A police spokesman contacted at public security headquarters declined to say whether the three men had been arrested.
The dissidents had planned to release an open letter calling on the government to free political prisoners held for their involvement in last year's democracy movement.
The three rose to prominence a year ago by staging a hunger strike in Tian An Men Square the day before tanks and troops routed pro-democracy demonstrators.