BEIJING (AP) — A lawyer for detained Chinese legal activist Pu Zhiqiang said Wednesday he has denied police charges that fellow activists say were trumped up to silence the prominent government critic.
Mo Shaoping said he obtained a police document urging prosecutors to indict Pu on charges of inciting state subversion, fanning ethnic hatred, provoking trouble, and illegally obtaining personal information.
Mo said he shared the information with Pu at Beijing's No. 1 Detention Center and that Pu denied all of the charges.
Pu, 49, is best known for pushing for an end to China's notorious labor camps. He was detained in May after attending a private event commemorating the 25th anniversary of a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters on Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
Pu's detention has drawn condemnation from international human rights groups and foreign governments, including the United States.
On Wednesday, which was also International Human Rights Day, U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus called for Pu's release in a statement and said "Throughout the past year, too many Chinese citizens were jailed merely for peacefully expressing their views."
Shang Baojun, a Beijing lawyer familiar with Pu's case, said most of the charges stem from online comments by Pu in which he questioned Beijing's ethnic policy following an attack at a train station blamed on members of China's Muslim Uighur minority, discussed China's dispute with Japan over a chain of islands in the East China Sea, and criticized other aspects of the government.
"He does not think he's ever fanned ethnic hatred but sincerely hopes that the different ethnicities can understand each other and prosper together in China," Shang said of Pu. "But he also thinks we should raise questions."
Authorities have tightened controls over online expression and have increasingly used criminal prosecution to punish speech they do not tolerate. Pu's friend, rights lawyer Si Weijiang, said Pu's accounts on microblogging sites were repeatedly removed starting in 2012, but were often shared hundreds of times before censors erased them.
"He is outspoken, but he would never say anything verging on inciting state subversion," Si said. "But, bent on framing him, the authorities would come up with any excuses."
The charge of inciting state subversion is punishable by up to life imprisonment.
It was not immediately clear when prosecutors would indict Pu, and Mo said they were planning to give police another month to provide additional materials.
Mo said Pu has received medicine for his health conditions while in detention, but also underwent grueling interrogation.
"During the police investigation phrase, he was interrogated 60 to 70 times, and many times the session lasted more than 10 hours," Mo said. "Because he has diabetes and high blood pressure, his calves were swollen all the way up to his knees."