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China detains rights lawyer ahead of anniversary

May 16, 2014

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities detained a human rights lawyer Friday in an ongoing clampdown on journalists, scholars and lawyers ahead of the June 4 anniversary of the 1989 military crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

Police took Tang Jingling, 43, away from his home in the southern city of Guangzhou and said he was suspected of starting quarrels and provoking trouble, according to his wife, Wang Yanfang. Tang has represented clients complaining of corruption, land seizures and other grievances.

A man who answered the phone at the district police office that issued the criminal detention notice said he knew nothing about the case. He refused to give his name.

Each year, Beijing detains activists or puts them under house arrest ahead of the June 4 anniversary in an attempt to prevent commemorations of the crackdown on protests centered in Tiananmen Square in central Beijing.

In recent months, state media have accused human rights lawyers of disrupting China’s legal order.

Last week, authorities detained lawyer Pu Zhiqiang and four other people after they attended a private forum on the 1989 crackdown. Pu is known for lobbying for the abolition of China’s labor camp system that once allowed police to lock up people considered nuisances by the authorities without due process.

This week, police took away Pu’s aide, Qu Zhenhong, on suspicion of “illegally obtaining personal information.”

Also detained was Chen Guang, a former People’s Liberation Army soldier who was deployed in 1989 near Tiananmen Square and later left the army and became a painter. He has urged authorities to allow unfettered discussion of the crackdown.

Tang’s wife said state security officers had warned him earlier not to do anything to commemorate the 1989 crackdown. Police seized two personal computers, three cellphones, an address book, greeting cards from friends and books on human rights, she said.

Tang gained prominence in 2005 when he represented residents in a southern village seeking to impeach a local cadre over corruption. The effort failed, and the law firm Tang was working for came under pressure to terminate his contract, his wife said.

His license to practice law — which must be reviewed annually — then expired as no firm was allowed to hire Tang, his wife said.

In 2006, Tang started a civil disobedience movement, urging fellow citizens not to cooperate with the authoritarian government by staying away from political groups, making no donations to them and refusing to take part in acts of bribery.

In another case, lawyer Liu Shihui has been detained in Shanghai, according to his girlfriend, Yue Senping. She said Friday that she had yet to find out the charge against him but noted that Liu was wearing a black shirt commemorating the 1989 pro-democracy movement and was on his way to meet a rights activist before he disappeared into police custody.

Liu was recently forced to relocate from Guangzhou to his hometown in northern China’s Inner Mongolia region, which was seen as a punishment for his legal activism.

Update hourly