Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Hunan are holding rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong under criminal detention on suspicion of fraud and
"illegal possession of state secrets," a state-backed Chinese news site reported on Friday.
Jiang, who has been incommunicado since Nov. 21 during a trip to Hunan's provincial capital Changsha, is currently under "coercive measures" which allow for a suspect to be held in secret for up to six months where national security-related crimes are claimed by police, the report said.
Jiang is being investigated for "fraudulent use of identification," "illegal possession of state secrets," and "illegally providing state secrets," The Paper news site reported.
He was detained by China's railway police at Changsha Railway Station while attempting to use someone else's ID card to buy a ticket for the D940 express train back to Beijing, it said.
He was initially held under administrative detention, but "further searches" revealed a large number of mobile phones and banking cards, the report said.
"Jiang was found to be in illegal possession of multiple documents containing state secrets, as well as links to overseas institutions, organizations and individuals, to whom he was suspected of supplying state secrets illegally," it said.
It said Jiang was criminally detained on Dec. 1, and his family duly informed.
Jiang's relatives had previously told RFA that police claimed to have released him on that date.
No detention notice for family
His defense lawyer Qin Chenshou said Jiang was continually targeted by the authorities wherever he went, and had used someone else's ID card because he was unable to buy a ticket using his own.
"Jiang Tianyong was constantly being targeted by the authorities," Qin said. "They stopped him from moving around freely, and he wouldn't have been able to buy a ticket for the train if he had used his own ID card."
"That's the only reason he used someone else's."
He said the authorities have yet to send formal notification of Jiang's criminal detention to his family.
"They actually said that he had already been released [from administrative detention], but they didn't say what had happened to him after that," Qin said.
Jiang also stands accused of receiving "long-term foreign funding," of deliberately intervening in politically sensitive cases, and using the internet to incite protest and disturb public order, the report said.
"Police are carrying out further investigations," it said.
Jiang's wife Jin Bianling, who is currently in the United States, rejected the charges against her husband in a statement issued on Friday.
"I am of the view that all the slanderous accusations by the public security organs are but trumped-up charges," Jin said in a statement e-mailed to RFA.
"They are meant as reprisal and persecution to Jiang Tianyong’s long term work on rights defense."
She rejected any suggestion that Jiang had "confessed" to the alleged crimes willingly.
"According to my knowledge of Jiang Tianyong ... it is likely that he has already been seriously tortured for confession," she said.
Jin had earlier said that the family had already reported him as missing to the police, and yet the authorities had refused to accept the report and had obstructed them at every turn.
Jin has repeatedly called on the authorities to reveal Jiang's whereabouts, saying she fears he is at risk of torture if held in secret with no access to a lawyer or to family visits.
"I am really afraid that Jiang Tianyong will be tortured, because he was tortured while being detained for two days ... in 2011, and wound up with a perforated eardrum from a beating in 2012 ... and his leg was broken in several places during a beating in 2014," she said earlier this week.
"I am extremely worried about his health," she said.
Beijing-based Jiang, who has represented a number of clients in politically sensitive cases, lost contact with friends and family after he visited Chen Guiqiu, the wife of detained rights lawyer Xie Yang in Changsha.
Fellow rights lawyers believe he is likely to have been detained because of his involvement with the families affected by a nationwide crackdown involving hundreds of rights lawyers that began on July 9, 2015 with a police raid on the offices of the Fengrui law firm and the detention of its key lawyers, including Wang Yu.
Reported by Ng Yik-tung, Ho Shan and Lee Lai for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Xin Lin and C.K. for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.