Authorities in the eastern China province of Jiangsu are holding several rights activists under "residential surveillance" in an unknown location following a secret crackdown in Suzhou city that began last September, rights activists said.
Several of the detainees had been protesting in supporting of evictee Fan Mugen, who was jailed for eight years in May 2015 for killing two of the demolition team sent to destroy his home, the overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network reported on Friday.
However, the crackdown has continued in recent weeks, the group said, citing the detention of Xu Wenshi on Monday under "residential surveillance in a designated location."
But while such detention is generally used in cases involving alleged threats to national security, Xu has been accused of a lesser public order offense, "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," it said.
Xu's detention follows that of Gu Xiaofeng in the same manner and on the same charge, on Feb. 6. Gu's lawyer Sui Muqing has not been allowed to meet with him.
Fellow activist Hu Cheng was earlier detained in an identical manner on the same charge on Nov. 8, and has also been denied access to his attorney, CHRD said.
On the same day, Ni Jinfang and Xing Jiezhong and Lu Guoying were taken into "residential surveillance for "disrupting court order," while Lu's husband Ge Jueping is being similarly held on charges of "incitement to subvert state power."
And Wang Mingxian and Wu Qihe have been held since Sept. 8 for "disrupting court order" after they participated in the protest on behalf of Fan. Wu's family have been told he has since been sent to a police-run detention, but no further notifications have been issued.
Meanwhile, Wang Wanping was reportedly released earlier this month after being held for "disrupting a court order," but remains incommunicado and has yet to return home, CHRD said.
Detentions before G20 Summit
The initial Fan Mugen protest and detentions also came in the immediate wake of mass detentions and security operations around the G20 Summit in nearby Hangzhou, and some of the Suzhou activists were accused of making "politically sensitive" posts to social media during the summit.
An anonymous source in Suzhou told RFA that 11 people have been detained since last September, adding Xu Chunling and Zhu Xueying to the list of names published by CHRD.
Of those, 10 have been prevented from seeing a lawyer, the source said.
"So many people have been called in for questioning in Suzhou, mostly for their support of Fan Mugen," the source said. "One person was taken in 12 times in all."
"Nobody who has been questioned has dared to speak about it after they get out," the source said.
Retired People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldier Fan Mugen was found guilty of "intentional wounding" by the Suzhou Intermediate People's Court following his trial in February 2015, and jailed for eight years.
Fan's case is politically sensitive as it comes amid growing public anger over the use of violent forced evictions, often with no warning or due process, by local governments to reclaim land for lucrative redevelopment or speculation.
Fan attacked two members of a demolition gang that came to evict his family from their home on Dec. 3, 2013, and who he said beat up his wife. The two men later died.
Fan's defense lawyers walked out after his trial was plagued with violations of legal procedure from the start, with the court ignoring the fact that video evidence shown by the prosecution had been heavily edited, lawyers said at the time.
Chinese authorities have previously charged suspects who kill someone with "intentional wounding" rather than homicide in cases where there is strong provocation, such as an attack on a loved one.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.