Activist Detained in Midnight Raid

Chinese activist Liu Shasha had planned a stunt to get dissident artist Ai Weiwei a chance to speak in court.
2012-07-25
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Chinese activist Liu Linna, better known by her nickname Liu Shasha, in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of Boxun.com

Authorities in the Chinese capital have detained a prominent rights activist who is tied to outspoken artist and political dissident Ai Weiwei, fellow activists said on Wednesday.

Beijing police detained Liu Linna, who is widely known by her nickname Liu Shasha, in the early hours of Wednesday morning in a raid on an apartment where she was staying, according to her host Li Hai.

"The police banged on the door and I woke up and got up [to see what was going on]," Li said. "There were a lot of them."

Liu had vowed to sue Ai Weiwei for the return of her donation to his campaign, in an attempt to give the artist a chance to appear in court after authorities prevented him from attending a hearing in his tax evasion case last week.

Li said police had given no reason for Liu's detention. "They didn't say anything....There was some of [their interaction with Liu] that I didn't hear," he said. "They said it was a summons."

Li said regular police and state security police were present during the raid.

An officer who answered the phone at Beijing's Xinyuanli police station, near Li's apartment, declined to comment on Liu's detention.

"I don't know about this," the officer said. "I don't really understand the circumstances."

Calls to Liu's mobile phone went unanswered until 8:00 p.m. local time on Wednesday.

Ties to Ai Weiwei

U.S.-based activist Wang Xuezhen said the recent summons was likely linked to her role in Ais' tax dispute with Chinese authorities.

"This time it probably has to do with the Ai Weiwei business," Wang said. "If the Beijing authorities want to talk to her, it's because she is a creditor of Ai Weiwei and a few days ago she was saying that she was going to sue Ai Weiwei."

"The state security police want to stop her; they don't want her to sue him," he added.

Liu was also instrumental in promoting Charter 08, a controversial document calling for sweeping political change in China that led to the jailing of veteran dissident and co-author Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo for 11 years in December 2009 on subversion charges.

Ai's campaign

"It's a joke on the court, because Ai borrowed money from a lot of ordinary people, but they wouldn't let him have his day in court," Wang said. "[Ai is saying] if you won't let me appear in court, then the people will," Wang said.

Last week, authorities upheld a U.S.$2.4 million tax evasion fine issued to Ai, who has vowed to continue his campaign against the penalty.

Beijing's Chaoyang District People's Court ruled on Friday that the fines levied by the state taxation bureau on Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., a company Ai founded and which is now legally owned by his wife Lu Qing, should stand.

Ai, who was prevented by large numbers of police from hearing the decision delivered in court, immediately vowed to keep fighting the decision, which he says is a form of official retaliation for his criticisms of the ruling Chinese Communist Party and his social activism.

Thousands of Ai's supporters had sent small donations totaling nearly 8.7 million yuan ($1.4 million) used to pay a guarantee to the tax bureau, with some folded into paper airplanes or wrapped around fruit and thrown over the gate at his home.

Liu wrote via Twitter last week that she planned to file a lawsuit against Ai to get her contribution back, in a tweet that was retweeted by the artist himself.

"I have already hired lawyer Liang Xiaojun to represent me in my case against Ai Weiwei, and I want him to return my 6,000 yuan [U.S. $940]," she wrote.

However, the rights group Weiquanwang said in a blog post on Wednesday that the police had wanted to prevent Liu from meeting with journalists.

"We hope everyone will be concerned for Liu Shasha's safety," the group said.

Sources in Beijing said the police would likely return Liu to her hometown in Henan, in spite of the fact that she had made her base in Beijing.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.