Rights group: China accuses Swede of harming state security

AP News
Posted: Jan 13, 2016 12:31 AM

BEIJING (AP) — A Swedish co-founder of a human rights group in mainland China has been detained by authorities on suspicion of endangering state security, his group said.

The detention of Peter Dahlin comes as President Xi Jinping has intensified a crackdown on civil society to snuff out any potential opposition to the ruling Communist Party.

Dahlin's group, China Urgent Action Working Group, said in a statement Tuesday that the 35-year-old was detained on the evening of Jan. 3 on his way to Beijing's main airport, where he was due to fly to Thailand via Hong Kong. His Chinese girlfriend has also disappeared.

The China-based group says it has been working since 2009 to help to advance the rule of law in the country by organizing training programs by lawyers for rights defenders focusing on land rights and administrative law. It also releases practical guides on the Chinese legal system.

The group said that it "has only ever advocated nonviolent, informed reliance on Chinese law," and that Dahlin had been "arbitrarily detained on spurious accusations."

It said that Dahlin suffers from Addison's Disease, a rare defect of the adrenal gland that requires daily medication. Chinese authorities, who have denied medical care to detained human rights defenders in the past, "have merely issued a verbal assurance that Peter is receiving his medicine," the group said.

It said that authorities had not disclosed any details of the charges or Dahlin's whereabouts, or allowed consular visits.

Gabriella Augustsson, spokeswoman for the Swedish Embassy in Beijing, said that she could confirm that a 35-year-old Swedish male citizen had been detained in China and that the embassy was investigating.

Under President Xi's watch, China has been cracking down on human rights activists and lawyers who defend them, detaining them and in some cases their family members.

China has also released a draft law on the management of foreign nongovernmental organizations that would bring them under police supervision.

Although this law is still in draft form, "it appears that police are already emboldened by the draft and the recently passed National Security Law to detain a foreign national working on rule of law issues," said Frances Eve, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

The National Security Law calls for tougher measures against online attacks, theft of secrets and the spread of illegal or harmful information, but critics say its vagueness leaves the door open to even tighter control of civil society.