Police in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan have detained long-time human rights activist Li Bifeng after summoning him for questioning, according to his friends.
Li Bifeng, 44, was asked to report to police in Mianyang city for a “conversation” over his so-called “economic problems” on Thursday.
As he walked out of the police station after the questioning, several police officers rushed to him, pushed him down and handcuffed him.
The following day, Li’s wife Jiang Xia received the detention notice from the police, listing him as a “suspect of economic fraud.”
“The police just said that Li should come to their office for questioning but not for detention. However, they arrested him following the conversation. This is a trap,” said Pu Fei, a fellow human rights activist in Sichuan.
“It is a common practice by the authorities to fabricate various economic ‘crimes’ to arrest the dissidents who have their own business,” Pu added.
Prominent Chinese artist and social critic Ai Weiwei was detained in June and was released almost three months later pending trial for "economic crimes."
Rights groups however believe he was held as part of a wider clampdown on activists following online calls in February for a "Jasmine" revolution inspired by uprisings in the Middle East.
Another veteran Sichuan dissident Huang Qi also believes that the “economic fraud” allegations against Li were an excuse to persecute him.
“Before he was detained, Li Bifeng had invited us for a dinner at which I reminded him not to be too close with the activists fighting in the front line like me. But Li said he would not care,” Huang said.
“Now from all the information I gathered, I can say that the economic charges have no basis at all,” Huang said.
Pu asserted that the detention was an act of retribution by police for Li’s involvement in activities to promote human rights and support dissidents.
“In the recent years, Li Bifeng has been actively taking part in the pro-democracy movement. He frequently donated money for dissidents’ families experiencing financial difficulties due to detention or jailing of their family members."
“I am not sure if this is the only reason that caused the police to detain him. Nevertheless, no matter whether Li has committed a crime or not, he at least deserves an open and fair investigation procedure.”
Li is among well-known political dissidents in Sichuan. He once spent 12 years in jail. He was first imprisoned for five years after the 1989 pro-democracy movement, and then served a seven-year jail term beginning in 1998 for reporting on a workers’ protest in the Sichuan city of Mianyang in 1998.
Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Ping Chen.