The 50-year-old, who had recently criticised China’s leaders, was detained while walking his son to school in Beijing
One of China’s most outspoken human rights lawyers has been picked up by police near his Beijing home in a move campaigners denounced as the latest bid to silence detractors of its one-party state.
Yu Wensheng, a 50-year-old attorney who has defied a severe Communist party crackdown to emerge as one of its most trenchant critics, was detained early on Friday as he walked his son to school, his wife, Xu Yan, told the Guardian.
|Yu Wensheng in 2017. Activists
expressed serious concern for his
Photograph: Fred Dufour/AFP/
Xu said her son had seen at least four police vehicles and a dozen officers involved in the operation, including a SWAT team. “They surrounded Yu,” she said, adding: “None of Yu’s actions were illegal.”
Activists condemned what they called the latest chapter in a “war on law” that began in July 2015.
“I’m shocked he has been taken,” said Patrick Poon of Amnesty International. He suspected the detention of Yu, whose legal license was revoked days earlier, was retaliation for a recent article attacking the party’s top brass: “The message is clear: don’t ever criticise state leaders … or you will end up in jail.”
Michael Caster, an activist who knows Yu, said: “Escalating repression in today’s China gives rise to serious concern for his well-being.”
Before his detention Yu had repeatedly weighed in on politically sensitive topics despite intensifying efforts to stifle dissent under China’s leader Xi Jinping.
In October, as Xi became China’s most powerful ruler since Mao, Yu publicly demanded his resignation. Xi’s China was “marching backwards … he is unfit for office,” Yu declared in an open letter.
He tried to sue authorities for failing to shield Chinese citizens from pollution and represented Wang Quanzhang, a fellow attorney who vanished into detention in the summer of 2015 and has yet to emerge.
In a 2015 interview with the Guardian, Yu insisted he would not be cowed. “Somebody has to make the sacrifice … I’m much happier facing oppression than standing by watching the wrongdoing and not trying to change it.”
Additional reporting by Wang Xueying