China detains outspoken venture capitalist after friend's arrest

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 13, 2013 5:03 AM
China detains outspoken venture capitalist after friend's arrest

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have detained an outspoken and well-known venture capitalist for questioning, a fellow activist said on Friday, after he helped lead a campaign for the release of another activist, as the government tightens a crackdown on dissent.

The businessman, Wang Gongquan, is an old friend of Xu Zhiyong, who has pushed for greater civil rights and called for officials to disclose their wealth and who was formally arrested last month on a charge of "gathering a crowd to disturb order in a public place".

Teng Biao, a fellow activist and lecturer at Beijing's University of Politics and Law, said that about 20 police came to Wang's apartment at around midday, saying he was wanted for questioning on suspicion of the same charge Xu is facing.

"It's worrying because Wang is very high profile and wealthy, an important person," Teng told Reuters by telephone.

Police could not be reached for comment.

Wang was one of the people who launched a campaign to gather signatures calling for Xu to be released.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper said that Wang had told them he was worried about being arrested amid a government push against dissent, which has shown no sign of abating during the first year of President Xi Jinping's first term in office.

Xu, founder of the "New Citizens' Movement", advocates working within the system to press for change.

On the Internet, he has called on officials to disclose their assets and fellow activists have gone into the streets to urge citizens to combat corruption.

China has detained at least 16 activists involved in pushing for asset disclosure by officials, in what rights groups say is a new, coordinated crackdown by the ruling Communist Party against graft campaigners.

Xu's arrest coincided with the opening of the trial of former senior leader Bo Xilai on corruption charges, a case which focused on Bo's alleged ill-gotten gains.

Xu's case was raised by the United States in August during an annual rights dialogue with China.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)