A Chinese housing activist who applied for permission to hold a protest during the Olympics has been released from a Beijing detention centre one month after she was detained by local police, her family said on Monday.

Zhang Wei, whose home was demolished two years ago to make way for an upmarket shopping and restaurant complex in central Beijing, was released on Saturday but was told she could still be sent back to jail.

The detention of Ms Zhang for allegedly “disturbing social order” became one of the symbols of the Chinese authorities’ strenuous efforts to smother all public dissent during the recent games in Beijing.

Olympics organisers an­nounced before the games that three protest zones would be set up around the city but, despite receiving more than 70 applications to hold demonstrations during the games, officials said none was approved.

Ms Zhang, who has complained for two years about the compensation she was offered for her house, was detained shortly after she and several other residents of the Qianmen area of central Beijing applied for permission to hold a protest.

Her son Mi Yu said on Monday she had been told by police not to talk to the foreign media, and instructed to keep her mobile phone on at all times in case the police wanted to get in touch with her. Local police declined to comment on the reasons for her detention or the conditions of her release.

The case highlights the delicate politics that surround the forced relocation of hundreds of thousands of Beijing residents to make way for new development projects. While many have been only too happy to move to better accommodation, some groups have complained at what they see as inadequate compensation.

Olympics organisers were relieved that the games were not marred by significant protests by pro-Tibetan demonstrators and other human rights activists. But human rights groups said some would-be protesters were detained by the authorities during the games and many activists were put under house arrest or close police scrutiny.

In an unusually strong statement released on the day of the closing ceremony, the US embassy in Beijing said: “We are disappointed that China has not used the occasion of the Olympics to demonstrate greater tolerance and openness.”

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