Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan have formally detained activist and writer Ran Yunfei on charges of "incitement to subvert state power" amid a growing crackdown on a new generation of Internet activists.
Ran's wife Wang Wei said she had received a formal notification of her husband's detention from local police on Friday.
"I was going out to buy groceries, and the police on surveillance duty gave it to me," she said in an interview on Monday.
"I will speak to you again after I have found out more details," she said, adding that she hoped to be able to visit Ran in the detention center soon.
Ran, 46, was taken from his home in the provincial capital of Chengdu after he published an article online detailing support for the Egyptian revolution, which brought an end to the 30-year rule of former president Hosni Mubarak.
In it, Ran said that Mubarak's dictatorship had left Egypt half crippled, and that the people who rose up against him could hardly have imagined that there were so many [Chinese] netizens in the Far East staying up all night on Twitter and Facebook, wishing them victory.
He was detained on March 20 after he took part in online attempts to organize "Jasmine" rallies against Communist Party rule inspired by the recent uprisings in the Middle East triggered by a revolt in Tunisia.
Ran was also a signatory of the controversial Charter 08 document, which was co-authored by jailed Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, and which called for sweeping changes to China's political system.
Fellow Sichuan activist Chen Yunfei said he thought the charges were harsh, given the range of Ran's actual activities.
"I think governments ought to be prepared to take a good look at their shortcomings," Chen said. "Why is nobody allowed to criticize them?"
"This isn't a normal way to govern," he said.
Meanwhile, authorities in the Sichuan city of Mianyang have received orders to continue the detention of local activist Zuo Xiaohuan on charges of "incitement to subvert state power."
"I called the person responsible at the court in mid-March, and he told me that the case had been referred back for further evidence," Zuo's lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said on Monday.
Zuo was first detained on April 26 by police from Mianyang's Xinsheng police station, but his court hearing has been delayed twice on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
A former teacher, Zuo had also been a volunteer for 64tianwang.com, a human rights monitoring website, according to the China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) website.
"The time limit for the gathering of further evidence has now passed ... but I have still had no news at all on this case," Liu said.
"My feeling is that this means that they probably don't have very much evidence," said Liu. "Otherwise it wouldn't have taken this long to bring a case."
China's ruling Communist Party has launched a fresh wave of detentions and subversion trials in the wake of anonymous online calls for "Jasmine" rallies.
Beijing-based activist Ni Yulan said a number of online activists had been detained at the weekend.
"I know there were a lot of people detained yesterday," Ni said. "I heard Zhou Li was detained, and Qian Shichen from Fangshan. His wife called me and told me that."
"Four police cars went to get him at 11 a.m. on Sunday," Ni said.
Online activist Liu Shasha said she had heard of Zhou Li's detention from her landlady.
Tianjin-based petitioner Ning Jinxia was also called in for questioning after she met with other activists in the northern port city, she said.
"They detained me right by the meeting point [for the Jasmine rally]," she said. "They saw me coming from a long way off, and pulled me to one side and asked me what I was doing there."
"I told them I was taking a stroll ... I am waiting to see the police station chief now," she said.
Call for 'strolls'
The group said that more than 100 activists, many of them active on Twitter and blogging networks, have been detained or subjected to monitoring and intimidation by the security forces, or had gone missing since late February.
"This massive clampdown shows that the Chinese government is rattled by the example of people’s movements abroad using the Internet to fight for their freedoms," Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Asia-Pacific, said in a statement on the group's website.
"The authorities are not only detaining seasoned dissidents; they are trying to silence a whole new generation of online activists," Baber said.
Amnesty estimates that some 24 activists have been detained on security charges such as ‘subverting state power,’ some for as little as mentioning the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ on the popular microblogging service Twitter.
Twitter users Hua Chunhui, Cheng Jianping, and Liang Haiyi have all been detained on state security or subversion-related charges for their microblogging activities in recent months.
Reported by Qiao Long and Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin service and by Grace Kei Lai-see for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.