Crackdown on dissent continues with apparent detention by authorities in China of two more associates of activist-artist
A lawyer linked to Ai Weiwei went missing on Thursday night and a designer from the company handling the artist’s affairs was taken by police six days ago, according to supporters.
Friends have not been able to reach Liu Xiaoyuan for almost 24 hours. The rights lawyer posted a message on a microblog at 8pm on Thursday saying he was being “followed by identified people”. His phone is switched off.
Last week he said he would “of course” act for Ai if requested. He spent several hours at a police station on the day Ai disappeared, although his brief detention did not appear to relate to the artist. It occurred after he requested to visit a female activist and officers reportedly berated him for tweeting about another missing lawyer.
Separately, a letter issued online on Friday said plainclothes police seized designer Liu Zhenggang, 49, at his home in Beijing on 9 April and no one had been able to reach him since. Liu worked for FAKE, the design and architecture firm that handles Ai’s affairs and belongs to the artist’s wife.
Police did not respond to queries about the two men.
Ai’s detention has sparked an international outcry, and his case is far from alone. The last two months have seen dozens of lawyers, dissidents and activists being criminally detained and arrested or simply going missing in one of the toughest crackdowns for years. It appears to have been sparked by anonymous calls on websites overseas for “jasmine revolution” protests inspired by the Middle East uprisings.
Ai was stopped at Beijing airport on 3 April and has been incommunicado ever since. Officials have said he is under investigation for economic crimes but police have still not informed his family that he is detained.
Also missing are his friend Wen Tao, 38; driver and cousin Zhang Jinsong, also known as Xiao Pang, 43; and accountant Hu Mingfen, 55.
An open letter to the ministry of public security and Beijing police, signed by Ai’s wife, Lu Qing, as well as colleagues and relatives of the missing, urged an investigation into the disappearances. The Guardian was unable to reach Lu but a friend of Ai’s posted a link to the letter and a studio assistant confirmed it was genuine.
“The people … all disappeared or got kidnapped in a very short period of time and we request that the public security bureau investigate the matter. We are deeply concerned about the situation Ai Weiwei and his colleagues are in now,” the letter said.
“Kidnapping citizens or making them disappear is a severe crime and it immensely hurts people, relatives and friends around them.
“We believe justice can only exist if every administrative procedure is carried out in accordance with the law. Otherwise any conclusion or result that’s been drawn does not hold water … We hope that the public security bureau can act according to the law and protect people’s rights.”
Reuters reported that a third person had been sent to re-education through labour after taking pictures of police officers at a site proposed for a “jasmine revolution” protest on 6 March.
Wang Yuqin said her husband Yang Qiuyu, 48, a campaigner for the rights of petitioners, was seized by police at Xidan in Beijing.
She said she would hire a lawyer and sue authorities for sending him to a labour camp without trial. “They want to use labour camps to crush dissent,” she said.
Rights groups say that lawyer Ni Yulan, who was taken by police a few days ago, has been criminally detained for “creating a disturbance”. A person close to her, who did not want to be named, told Reuters: “She has nothing to do with it [the “jasmine revolution” call] … She was very careful about not getting involved.
“The innocent are being taken away. It’s getting more and more terrifying out there.”
The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institution warned in a statement: “An expanding catalogue of abductions by the Chinese authorities [is creating] a climate of fear. The IBAHRI calls on the Chinese government to release all illegally detained human rights lawyers; cease all forms of harassment of the same; and to make a public statement on the whereabouts of ‘disappeared’ lawyers, the reasons for their arrest and their treatment in detention.”
This is crazy, does that mean now that Ai Weiwei is without a lawyer? The only lawyer I could think of with enough teeth and guts to agree to his case was Liu Xiaoyuan … now what?