BEIJING (AP) — Chinese police have taken away the aide of prominent lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, who was detained last week in a government clampdown on activists ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square military suppression of protesters, an attorney said Thursday.
Pu's aide, Qu Zhenhong, who is also his niece, was recently detained by Beijing police on suspicion of "illegally obtaining personal information," said Zhang Sizhi, a veteran rights lawyer who is Pu's attorney.
Chinese activists said two other people also had been taken away by police in relation to the investigation into Pu, including an employee of Japan's leading business newspaper, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun. The newspaper's office in Tokyo said the company was investigating the situation. The employee is not believed to be a Japanese journalist.
Beijing police did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.
Authorities placed Pu under criminal detention last week after he attended a forum on the June 4, 1989, military crackdown on demonstrators, highlighting Chinese authorities' sensitivity over efforts to publicly discuss the bloodshed.
Several other dissidents who attended the private forum were also detained and accused of "creating a disturbance," a vaguely defined charge that has increasingly been used against government critics.
Also detained by police was Chen Guang, a former People's Liberation Army soldier who was deployed in 1989 to the vicinity of the square to help clear out the protesters. Chen later left the army and became a painter who publicly urged authorities to allow for unfettered discussions of the crackdown.
The Chinese government has never fully disclosed what happened during the 1989 crackdown that killed hundreds of people, possibly more, and has branded the protests a "counterrevolutionary riot."
Every year, the government stifles activities seeking to mark the anniversary of the crackdown, but this year has been one of the most severe clampdowns in recent memory, activists say. Such restrictions usually are put in place a few days or so before June 4, but this time many dissidents have said they've been kept under house arrest months ahead of the date and warned against talking to the media.
Beijing police have also been summoning foreign journalists and delivering vague warnings that coverage of "sensitive" issues at this time could result in unspecified consequences.