Authorities in the Chinese capital have detained a Beijing artist who went missing last week after documenting a street protest by migrant workers against mass forced evictions, releasing him under bail conditions that include a year of close police surveillance, an associate said on Monday.
Hua Yong, who had been incommunicado since the Dec. 7 protest, touched down at the airport in the southwestern province of Sichuan on Monday after his release, and has since been reunited with his young daughter in the provincial capital, Chengdu, in time for her birthday, the friend said.
"He just got off the plane, and friends are meeting him," the friend said. "He was in criminal detention, on suspicion of disturbing public order and traffic, and is now out on bail."
He said the charges related to a protest that blocked a major highway in Beijing's Xinjian village on Dec. 7, a protest that was filmed by Hua.
"He is now at his daughter's home," the friend said.
Veteran journalist Gao Yu said via social media that the conditions of Hua's bail mean that he will be subjected to a year's police surveillance, with the charges hanging over him during that time.
"He will be forced to report at regular intervals to a police station in the town of his birth and to undergo re-education," Gao said. "He won't be allowed to leave the town of his birth without police approval."
She added: "This is a trumped-up charge; further evidence of our criminal police state."
Rights activist Wang Aizhong said Hua had been held for two days in total, and was likely released to deflect media attention away from the mass forced evictions of migrants in Beijing.
"If they had kept Hua Yong locked up, then that would have kept people's attention on the Beijing clearances, at the same time as they were paying attention to Hua Yong," Wang said.
"Also, there has been a huge amount of concern over Hua Yong's detention inside China, and I think that had something to do with it as well," Wang said. "That put a certain amount of moral pressure on the authorities."
Hua, a resident of Beijing's Songzhuang Artists' Village, had reported for several weeks on the authorities' bid to rid the city of its low-income, migrant population in the wake of a fatal fire in Daxing district last month.
His last communication with the outside world came in the form of video footage shared with RFA that showed around 100 residents of Daxing district blocking a major highway in protest at being evicted.
Meanwhile, France-based artist Hu Jiamin and his wife, French national Marine Brossard, have been reported incommunicado, believed detained, after he exhibited a painting in Shenzhen depicting the empty chair that represented late Nobel peace laureate and political prisoner Liu Xiaobo at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony in Oslo.
Guangdong-based writer Ye Du, who is a close friend of Liu's widow Liu Xia, said the exact reason for the couple's detention remains unclear, however.
"We're still not sure about that, but I am guessing that's the reason," Ye said. "I won't say any more right now, because my freedom has also been restricted, and we don't actually know their situation right now."
An employee who answered the phone at the Shenzhen Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture exhibit said she didn't know why Hu and his wife had been detained.
"I don't know about this right now, but I can pass your request on to the relevant departs, and they will be in touch with you soon," she said.
An official who answered the phone at the Shenzhen police department asked for an interview request to be made in writing, and declined to comment further.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Siu-san and Dai Weisen for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.