China Jails Writer For Five Days Over Comments About First Lady

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china-xi-peng-march-2013.jpg China's President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan arrive in Moscow on March 22, 2013.

A writer in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong has been locked up for five days by police for criticizing China's first lady, his lawyer said on Friday.

Writer Tian You was taken from his home to the Longxin police station in Shenzhen, close to the internal immigration border with Hong Kong, and prevented from seeing a lawyer, his lawyer Mei Chunlai wrote via social media.

"I went to the police station today, but they refused to allow me to visit him," Mei wrote. "According to my enquiries, this has something to do with 'spreading rumors online.'"

Tian had allegedly written an unfavorable comparison between Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Zhou dynasty empress Wu Zetian (624 - 705), according to Mei's tweet, which was quoted by the overseas news website Boxun.

The case has been handed over to Shenzhen's Longgang district police department for further discussion, Mei wrote.

Contacted by RFA on Friday, Mei said Tian You is currently being held on a five-day administrative sentence, which can be handed down by a police committee without need for a trial.

"It seems he is being held for five days," Mei said. "His family told me that it was for five days."

But he said he has yet to see any legal documents showing the charges against his client.

"I have yet to see any formal notification, so it's hard to say how things will go," he said.

Crackdown on public expression

An officer who answered the phone at the Longxin police station declined to comment on Tian's case, but didn't deny he was being held.

"I don't know about this ... It's not convenient for me to answer your questions," the officer said. "If you are related to him, you can come here with some ID and we will be able to tell you more."

Guangdong-based rights lawyer Lin Qilei said the detention showed the current human rights situation in China.

"It looks as if he was detained and locked up for five days for saying something stupid," Lin said. "This just shows how bad things have gotten in China right now."

"There is a crackdown on all forms of public expression, including online opinion," Lin said. "It's terrible, much worse than it was before."

Tian has penned a number of novels including Underground, Overground: Men Compete for Power, Sex and Money, The Unfortunate Man, and The Rules, according to his page on Baidu's online encyclopedia.

'No stranger to official wrath'

He is no stranger to official wrath, having had his microblog account shut down after he tweeted about the March 2014 Kunming railway station knife attacks, saying that oppressive "stability maintenance"
policies were to blame for the violent backlash.

Guangzhou-based writer Xu Lin said the order to detain Tian needn't have come from the highest levels of government in Beijing.

"The lower-ranking officials could be be taking these measures against somebody who comments on a national leader's wife as a way of currying favor with those above them," Xu said.

"We have no idea what [Peng Liyuan] actually thinks about this herself."

Others detained, disappeared

Tian wouldn't be the first in the media and publishing industry to run afoul of China's president.

Last month, Chinese journalist Jia Jia, whose name had been linked to the publication of an open letter calling for Xi Jinping's resignation, disappeared en route to Hong Kong where he was scheduled to speak at a university in the city, according to his friends and media reports. He was later released after denying any connection to the letter.

And last November, political cartoonist Jiang Yefei was repatriated from Thailand after he drew cartoons ridiculing Xi.

And five Hong Kong booksellers were detained or "disappeared" in opaque circumstances after they planned a book that claimed to reveal details of Xi's early love life.

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.


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