BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have detained a prominent rights lawyer suspected of “creating a disturbance”, while another is feared to have been taken into custody after he said he was being followed, the latest examples of a sustained crackdown on dissent.
Dozens of Chinese rights lawyers, activists and grassroots agitators have been detained or have lost contact with friends and relatives since February, when fears of contagion from Middle East and North Africa uprisings triggered a crackdown by China’s domestic security apparatus.
Detained lawyer Ni Yulan, 49, was not involved with promoting the online calls for pro-democracy “Jasmine Revolution” gatherings that have recently led to a sweeping crackdown on dissidents, a person close to Ni, who declined to be named, told Reuters by telephone.
“She has nothing to do with it. She can’t move at all, so there’s no way for her to participate. She was very careful about not getting involved,” the person said.
Ni, who is known for defending the rights of people evicted from their homes, was left disabled by a police beating in 2002 for filming the forced demolition of a client’s home, and then jailed.
Ni’s 26-year-old daughter has not been allowed to see her and she does not know the reasons for the disturbance charge, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals from authorities.
“The innocent are being taken away. It’s getting more and more terrifying out there.”
Ni’s detention adds to evidence that the ruling Communist Party is determined to stamp out China’s fledgling civil rights movement, already reeling from the abduction of several of its lawyers, with those remaining being closely watched by authorities.
At least six human rights lawyers, including Teng Biao and Jiang Tianyong, have disappeared since late February.
Ni was jailed and beaten by police in 2008 for defending the rights of people evicted from their homes to make way for Beijing’s 2008 Summer Olympics. She was released in April last year.
Another rights lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan, has been uncontactable in Beijing since Thursday night, adding to fears he may be the latest lawyer to have been detained.
Nobody has heard from Liu, who told Reuters last week that he has given advice to the family of detained Chinese artist-activist Ai Weiwei, since he posted a message on his microblog on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, on Thursday night that he was being followed by an unidentified person.
Liu’s mobile phone was turned off on Friday.
The London-based International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute said on Thursday it was concerned “over the intimidation, abuse, and the worsening situation of human rights lawyers in China, as an expanding catalogue of abductions by the Chinese authorities creates a climate of fear”.
(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Ken Wills and Nick Macfie)