Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan are holding a rights lawyer under 14 days' administrative detention for "inciting others to cause trouble," activists said.
Local lawyer Xu Shurong, who had a track record of helping rural communities pursue complaints over forced evictions and land grabs, was detained Sunday, they said.
"Right now, she is in the detention center," said Pu Fei, of the locally based Tianwang rights website. "They have informed her that she is being held on a 14-day administrative sentence for 'disrupting social order.'"
The move follows a protest on Sunday by local farming communities over the loss of their land.
The protesters had blocked a major road in the provincial capital, Chengdu, and police had detained Xu, who was several hundred meters away from the protest at the time, fellow activists said.
Sichuan-based activist Huang Qi, who founded the Tianwang website, said more than 100 protesters had gathered on Chengdu's Guanghua Road on Sunday in protest at the loss of their livelihoods amid rising prices.
Xu had arrived at the scene coincidentally, Huang said, and had nothing to do with the protest.
Administrative sentences of up to 15 days for minor offenses may be imposed by police without the need for a trial, while sentences of up to three years' "re-education through labor" can be handed down by local committees without recourse to a court.
Xu's sentence comes after a separate incident in Chengdu of a standoff on Tuesday between local residents and riot police after the authorities denied local farmers the right to legal representation in court.
Several activists were dragged away from the Gaoxin District People's Court after vocally protesting the judge’s decision to bar rights lawyer Luo Fuyuan from entering the court to represent clients in a land reclamation case, the Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) said on Friday.
"The judge refused to allow a plaintiff’s representative, Luo Fuyuan, to enter the courtroom and present an argument, eliciting protests from the plaintiff and some observers," CHRD said in an e-mailed statement.
"To quell the commotion, the judge summoned anti-riot police, who took away seven individuals," it said, adding that activist Li Tinghui was issued a 15-day detention by police, while activist Wu Mingren was ordered detained for an unknown length of time.
The judge did not give a reason or produce formal documentation in not allowing Luo Fuyuan, who has distinguished himself in recent years by helping citizens defend their rights in court, to make a case on the plaintiff’s behalf, CHRD said.
The requisitioning of rural land for lucrative property deals by cash-hungry local governments sparks thousands of "mass incidents" across China every year.
Most protests result in violent suppression, the detention of the main organizers, and intense pressure on the local population to comply with the government's wishes.
Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.