BEIJING (Reuters) - The family of prominent Chinese legal activist Jiang Tianyong is unable to locate him despite police saying that he had been released on Dec. 1 after spending nine days in detention, his family's lawyer said on Friday.
Disbarred lawyer Jiang, 45, has spoken out about a government crackdown on legal defenders and has been involved in high-profile cases of dissidents who have angered authorities, including blind activist Chen Guangcheng, who left China after he fled to the U.S. embassy in 2012.
Jiang's wife, Jin Bianling, told Reuters in November that she and his friends had been unable to contact him since Nov. 21 after he travelled to Changsha in Hunan province to visit relatives of an arrested human rights lawyer, Xie Yang.
Philip Alston, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said in a statement last week that he feared Jiang's disappearance was in part a reprisal for a meeting the two had during Alston's August visit to China.
Jiang may be at risk of torture, the United Nations said.
When asked about Jiang at a daily briefing on Friday, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he "did not understand the situation".
Officers at a police station in Changsha told Jiang's parents on Thursday they had released Jiang on Dec. 1 after nine days of detention, according to family lawyer Qin Chengshou.
"The local station did not provide any form of written proof of his detention or his release, and as we still cannot contact him, we suspect that he has either not been released or has been transferred to another police station," Qin said.
Qin said police told him that Jiang was detained for nine days after attempting to use an identification card that was not his to buy train tickets.
"At this time, we have no way of confirming whether what they said is correct," Qin said.
An officer at the police station who answered the telephone on Friday said the issue had "nothing to do with us". He did not elaborate.
Since 2015, dozens of people linked to a Beijing law firm have been detained or prosecuted by the authorities in a crackdown on dissent.
China consistently rejects criticism of its human rights record and says it is a country ruled by law.
Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Robert Birsel