China rights lawyer resurfaces amid crackdown

AP News
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Posted: Apr 20, 2011 3:54 AM
China rights lawyer resurfaces amid crackdown

China has released one of the most prominent activists taken into custody since a massive security crackdown was launched two months ago to stamp out any Middle East-inspired protests.

Jiang Tianyong, a Beijing human rights lawyer, returned home Tuesday evening and appeared to be relatively well, his wife Jin Bianling said Wednesday.

"I think he just wants to rest for a while," Jin said.

Jiang was among dozens of well-known lawyers and activists across China who have vanished, been interrogated or criminally detained for subversion in recent weeks as China's authoritarian government, apparently unnerved by events in the Middle East and North Africa, has moved to squelch dissent.

The most high-profile person targeted by authorities so far is Ai Weiwei, famed Chinese artist and outspoken government critic, who had been keeping an informal tally of the recent detentions on Twitter before he disappeared early this month.

Beijing has also limited reporting, stressing the instability caused by protests in Egypt and Libya, and has restricted Internet searches to wipe out content it deems politically sensitive. Human rights groups say the crackdown is on a scale and intensity not seen in many years.

Jiang had last been seen on Feb. 19 visiting his brother in a Beijing suburb, where police grabbed him and threw him into a waiting van. His disappearance was seen as part of police attempts to thwart any protests the following day as called for in an anonymous Internet appeal.

Jin said the couple were not being monitored but seemed to hint at restrictions on what they were allowed to reveal about his disappearance. She answered most questions with the phrase: "It is not convenient to say."

The China-based rights group Chinese Human Rights Defenders said in a notice Wednesday that 18 other lawyers, activists and dissidents remained missing, including Teng Biao, a law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, and rights lawyer Li Tiantian, who both disappeared on the same day as Jiang.

Liu Xiaoyuan, another activist lawyer, said he returned on Tuesday evening after officers who identified themselves as being from Beijing's public security bureau took him away for five days and questioned him. Liu believed he was taken away because he is a friend of Ai, the artist, who had said before he disappeared that he would like Liu to represent him.

"Police took me to a place that I couldn't recognize and asked me about cases I had worked on in the past," Liu said. "But I think it had to do with Ai Weiwei."