China detains rights lawyer ahead of 25th anniversary of Tiananmen crackdown

Tue May 6, 2014 8:53am GMT

By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Tuesday detained a prominent human rights lawyer on a charge of "causing a disturbance", two lawyers said, after he attended a weekend meeting that urged a probe of the bloody suppression of pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Pu Zhiqiang, a leading free-speech lawyer, has represented many well-known dissidents, including artist Ai Weiwei and activists of the "New Citizens' Movement", a group that has urged Chinese leaders to disclose their assets.

He is also well known for opposing China's system of forced labour camps, which the government has abolished, and featured prominently in state media for that campaign - unusual for a government critic.

The move to formally detain Pu underscores the sensitivity of Chinese leaders to any form of criticism ahead of the 25th anniversary of China's crackdown on the demonstrations around Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4, 1989.

"Pu is very influential and has a following in the mainstream audience," said Maya Wang, a China researcher for New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch.

"The detention, as in previous years' house arrest, is meant to, first, put him out of action during this period, but more importantly, it might be a message to deter any others from commemorating the massacre during this important anniversary."

At least five dissidents and professors have disappeared since attending the meeting, held to commemorate the 1989 crackdown as well as "explore its implications and consequences and call for an investigation into the truth of June 4," said Hua Ze, a human rights activist.

In Pu's detention notice, Beijing police said they had "criminally detained" him on a charge of "causing a disturbance" and were holding him at the Beijing No.1 Detention Centre.   Continued...

Visitors watch a video showing Chinese army soldiers entering Tiananmen Square at a museum dedicated to the 1989 pro-democracy protests and crackdown, in Tsim Sha Tsui April 27, 2014. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
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