The lawyer of a prominent Chinese human rights attorney detained in Beijing yesterday said that the allegations against his client, who has been charged with disrupting public service, were “absurd.”
Yu Wensheng (余文生) was seized as he left his Beijing apartment to walk his child to school by about a dozen people, including a SWAT team, sources told reporters on Friday.
Hours before his detention, Yu had circulated an open letter calling for five reforms to China’s constitution, including the institution of multicandidate presidential elections.
“We believe detaining lawyer Yu for the ‘suspected crime of disrupting public service’ is absurd,” said Huang Hanzhong (黃漢中), Yu’s lawyer.
“Lawyer Yu’s publishing of this recommendation letter on the Internet is within his rights as a citizen, it is not illegal,” his lawyer said.
Police have not allowed Yu to meet his lawyer or family since he has been detained and had searched his office, Huang said.
While Yu is in detention, police and prosecutors will likely gather evidence and decide whether or not to bring the case to trial. The crime carries a maximum three-year jail sentence.
The charges were “a bit far-fetched” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International, adding that authorities could later change them.
Yu has been a persistent voice for reform in China, despite the country’s sweeping and increasingly severe crackdown on civil society under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), which has led to the jailing of numerous human rights litigators.
Yu has said that in 2014 authorities imprisoned and tortured him for 99 days for allegedly “disturbing public order.”
He is perhaps best known for being one of six lawyers who attempted to sue the Chinese government over the country’s chronic smog.
The detention order said Yu is being held at the Beijing Shijingshan Detention Center.
The local public security department said they were not clear on the details and referred questions to the Beijing Public Security Bureau, which was not open for media calls yesterday.
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