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China arrests human rights lawyer for “inciting subversion”

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One of China’s leading human rights lawyers has been arrested on suspicion of “inciting state subversion,” according to an official notice obtained by his wife some weeks after speaking out on behalf of a hospitalized teacher.

Xie Yang, who has previously represented Christians and democratic campaigners, has been missing for more than a week after being detained in Changsha, Hunan province.

Since Xi Jinping gained office in 2012, Beijing has stepped up its campaign on civil society, tightening restrictions on freedom of speech and detaining hundreds of activists and lawyers.

The 49-year-old Xie was held on Monday, according to a police notice seen by AFP, on suspicion of encouraging subversion of state power and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a catch-all charge commonly leveled against dissidents and campaigners.

“I am very angry that he has been detained on trumped-up charges,” his wife Chen Guiqiu told AFP from the United States, where she lives with their two children.

Chen claims that his home was also ransacked.

“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 came weeks after he attempted to visit Li Tiantian, a teacher who, according to acquaintances, was forcibly committed to a psychiatric institution after expressing sympathy for views challenging Beijing’s account of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre.

In China, the topic of historical tragedy is extremely sensitive.

Li is believed to have been detained after openly sympathizing with a Shanghai professor who questioned the official death toll of 300,000 people linked to the six-week killing, rape, and devastation spree.

Xie was an outspoken supporter of the pregnant 27-year-old teacher, who prosecutors said was willingly admitted to the hospital.

In December, he posted a video on Twitter of himself outside the local police station brandishing a placard demanding her release.

The public security bureau in Changsha declined to comment, and phone calls to the prison center and the local propaganda department were not returned.

“Xie Yang has participated in almost all the hot-button issues in China,” rights activist Cheng Xiaofeng, who attempted to visit the hospital with Xie, told AFP.

“His actions probably make the authorities very uncomfortable.”

Xie was jailed for nearly two years in 2015 amid the “709 crackdown” targeting human rights activists and lawyers, during which he said he was tortured.

Yang Maodong, another human rights lawyer, was arrested last week on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power,” according to a police notification obtained by AFP. He has been jailed in Guangzhou, China’s largest city, since last month.

As a result of his activism, Yang has been imprisoned several times.

Yang’sYang’s wife died of cancer in the United States last week after he was barred from leaving China to see her.

Image Credit: AFP

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