In 2005 I was chased, by car, from Shanghai to Hangzhou by Chinese secret police. My crime? Setting up meetings with Chinese writers.
I was there working on a report for PEN International on the organizations that cater to literary writers. What issues did writers care about? What activities did they engage in?
The car tailing us bobbed in and out of traffic to keep up, and later slowed when it looked like it would overtake us. It was a frightening experience although my companion from PEN and I were not arrested, and we suffered no consequences from the surveillance and pursuit.
On the other hand, the Chinese writers we were to meet with the night before in a Shanghai restaurant, had been detained and questioned. One was taken to tea. The other dinner at KFC. Anything to prevent them meeting with us.
We could only hope that our efforts to learn more about these writers and support them in their work would not bring them any real harm. And the experience left me with an enduring admiration for their courage to even agree to meet with us in the first place.