Human rights lawyer Xie Yang (謝陽) has been detained in China on suspicion of “inciting state subversion,” according to an official notice obtained by his wife weeks after he spoke out for a hospitalized teacher.
Xie — who has previously defended Christians and democracy advocates — has not been heard from since he was detained more than a week ago in Changsha, Hunan Province.
Beijing has stepped up its crackdown on civil society since Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) took power in 2012, tightening restrictions on freedom of speech, and detaining hundreds of rights advocates and lawyers.
The police notice, dated Monday and seen by Agence France-Presse (AFP), said 49-year-old Xie had been held on suspicion of inciting subversion of state power, and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” — a catch-all phrase often used against dissidents and rights advocates.
“I am very angry that he has been detained on trumped-up charges,” his wife, Chen Guiqiu (陳桂秋), said from the US, where she lives with their two children.
His home was also ransacked, Chen said.
“Anything that could be opened was opened or torn open, even his pillows were ripped apart,” she said, adding that two computers and his safe were missing.
His detention comes weeks after he tried to visit a teacher, Li Tiantian (李田田), who friends said was forcibly committed to a psychiatric hospital after expressing sympathy for views questioning Beijing’s narrative of the Nanjing Massacre in 1937. The tragedy is a hugely sensitive topic in China.
Li was believed to have been held after she publicly sympathized with a Shanghai professor who questioned the official death toll of 300,000 attributed to the six-week spree of killing, rape and destruction.
Xie was a vocal advocate for the 27-year-old pregnant teacher, who authorities have said was willingly admitted to the hospital.
Last month, he shared a video on Twitter showing himself outside the local police headquarters holding a poster calling for her release.
The Changsha Public Security Bureau declined to comment, while the detention center and local propaganda department did not answer telephone calls.
“Xie Yang has participated in almost all the hot-button issues in China,” said rights advocate Cheng Xiaofeng (程曉峰), who attempted to visit the hospital with Xie. “His actions probably make the authorities very uncomfortable.”
Xie was previously detained for almost two years during the “709 crackdown” targeting human rights advocates and lawyers in 2015, when he said he was tortured.
Another human rights lawyer, Yang Maodong (楊茂), was arrested last week also on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power,” a police notice shared with AFP showed. He had been detained in Guangzhou since last month.
Yang has repeatedly been imprisoned because of his advocacy.
Yang’s wife died of cancer in the US last week, after he was prevented from leaving China to reunite with her.
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