Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia said that interviews he gave to the foreign media and government concerns over his planned trip to blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng's village may have been reasons for his brief detention this week.
Hu was taken away on Tuesday evening by more than 20 police and released the following morning after he spoke to foreign media about his suspicions regarding the death of 1989 veteran labor activist Li Wangyang, who the authorities say committed suicide.
"The ostensible reason was because I gave interviews to foreign media, particularly a face-to-face interview," said Hu, who was released last year after serving a three-and-a-half jail term for "subversion."
"In fact, I am totally sure that they just want to limit my personal freedom."
Li, aged 62, died at a hospital in Shaoyang city in the custody of local police last week. When relatives arrived at the scene, his body was hanging by the neck from the ceiling near his hospital bed, but was removed by police soon afterwards.
Relatives, friends, and rights groups have all called into question several details of both circumstance and timing which they say point to the possibility of foul play, including photographs distributed on the Chinese microblog service Sina Weibo, which showed Li’s feet touching the floor.
Li's death came as Chinese authorities moved to crack down on dissidents and rights activists around the country, in a bid to prevent public memorials on the 23rd anniversary of the bloody June 4, 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations at Tiananmen Square.
Hu Jia said that Chinese authorities might also have been concerned over his plans to visit the brother of blind Shandong dissident Chen Guangcheng, who is now studying in New York.
"They are afraid that I will go to Shandong to visit the relatives of Chen Guangcheng," he said.
Hu said state security police had apparently heard him discuss the possibility.
"Their intelligence network has picked up a few clues, probably from listening equipment," he said. "Maybe it was via Internet monitoring."
Hu said Chen's mother misses her son, now a special student in law at the US-Asia Law Institute of New York University, following a daring escape from 19 months of house arrest in Shandong and after taking refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
"Since Guancheng left, his elderly mother has been on her own at home, with just the little dog and a few chickens for company," Hu said. "I wanted the old lady to see her son's image. It's been two months since they parted."
Last week, Chinese authorities withdrew hundreds of security personnel from round-the-clock guard duty in Chen's home village, while his relatives accused officials of destroying evidence of abuse ahead of an official investigation.
Chen's nephew, Chen Kegui, is still being held in a detention center on "intentional homicide" charges, and denied access to lawyers hired by his family.
Chen has repeatedly hit out at the charges, saying Chen Kegui acted in self-defense after a sudden and vicious attack by officials in the wake of his flight to Beijing.
Chen's brother, Chen Guangfu, said on Wednesday that there has been no news on his son's case.
"All we can do is wait," he said. "[My son's wife] is still in Beijing."
Asked if she was afraid to return home, he answered: "Yes."
He said that employees of the local government had recently asked a foreign journalist to leave.
"A reporter came from the Associated Press to visit my mother and to look at Chen Guangcheng's room and his escape route, and the wall he jumped over," Chen Guangfu said.
"They took photographs of everything, but when the reporter started interviewing the villagers, the [security] team told them to leave," he said.
Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin service and by Grace Kei Lai-see for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.