Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Guizhou are targeting rights activists after some of them gathered in a public square and planned to donate money to a jailed poet who showed support for the democracy movement in Hong Kong.
Guizhou state security police searched the home of poet Mo Jiangang, a member of the banned Guizhou Human Rights Forum, on Thursday, before questioning him at a police station in his home district of Nanming on Thursday.
Police confiscated a computer and a cell phone, but showed no official documentation for the search, which was carried out on suspicion that Mo had "breached security laws," fellow activist Li Renke told RFA on Friday.
"They called him in for questioning, firstly about an article he had posted online in support of [detained poet] Wang Zang," Li said.
"It was also about his wife, whether she had plans to go to spend Chinese New Year with her family in Sichuan province, and saying that they wouldn't allow this," Li said.
The forum has been the target of official harassment since it was set up on World Human Rights Day in 2005, with members subjected to police surveillance, detention, and house arrest in recent years.
It was formally banned by the authorities, according to notices issued by the local government, in December 2011.
Currently, activist and forum member Mei Chongbiao has been "disappeared," while Liao Shuangyuan, Wu Yuqin and Li himself are under tight surveillance by state security police, Li said.
Support for poet
According to a tweet posted by Mo late on Thursday, the offending post was in support of detained Beijing-based Guizhou poet Wang Zang, who was detained on Oct. 1 for his online support of the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong.
"On Jan. 19, I expressed support on behalf of the Guizhou Human Rights Forum for the poet Wang Zang, and they thought this was against the law," Mo wrote.
Sixty-four-year-old Mo is a veteran of the 1978 Democracy Wall movement and founder member of the Enlightenment Society that wrote big character posters slamming Mao's Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) and calling for constitutional government. He also spend time behind bars in the wake of the 1989 pro-democracy movement on Tiananmen Square.
Wang Zang is being held in Beijing's No. 1 Detention Center on suspicion of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," after he posted a photo of himself online holding an umbrella and making a middle-fingered gesture in support of Occupy Central.
Repeated calls to Mo's cell phone returned a "number unavailable" message on Friday. Calls to his home number rang unanswered.
Li said those forum members not under surveillance had been meeting recently on a public square in Guizhou's provincial capital, Guiyang.
"They are able to communicate with each other then, but I have police following me 24 hours a day," Li said. "When they gather in the square on Fridays, they are chased away by police."
"Last week, someone told me Mo Jiangang was there, and he was talking about helping Wang Zang out financially, and that's why the state security police were after him," he said.
According to Wang's lawyer, the poet and political activist has been subjected to torture and mistreatment while in police detention.
A second forum member who asked to remain anonymous said Guizhou activists remain under intense pressure from the authorities.
"Our phone is being monitored [by police], so there's nothing we can do," the member said. "Every Friday, they take some people away, saying they're going on holiday."
"Wu Yuqin, for example, was one of those taken away."
Forum member Chen Defu told RFA the authorities are keen to prevent activists from different provinces from gathering in major cities.
"This is very sensitive for the authorities," Chen said, adding that Mo will now likely also be under close surveillance.
"Here in Guizhou, they put us under surveillance whenever anything happens," he said.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.