Beijing-based veteran rights activist Zhang Baocheng has been formally arrested on "terrorism" charges, RFA has learned.
Zhang, who has previously taken part in the New Citizens Movement calling on ruling Chinese Communist Party leaders to reveal details of their personal assets, was formally arrested on July 4 on suspicion of "incitement to terrorism."
According to the arrest notice issued by the Fengtai district branch of the Beijing municipal police department, Zhang stands accused of "provoking and promoting terrorism and extremism, and incitement to terrorist activities."
He is currently being held at the Fengtai Detention Center.
A friend who declined to be named said he was shocked by the charges against Zhang.
"It seems to me that the authorities' fear of rights activists has now reached fever pitch," the friend said.
A second friend and fellow activist Liu Jiacai said he was surprised by the charge, too. Zhang was detained alongside other activists ahead of the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre on June 4, after which many activists are generally released.
"I think some of us were a little over-optimistic back [when Zhang was detained]," Liu said. "We just thought they'd detain him for a few days to put the frighteners on him, and then let him go."
Liu said Zhang had helped a number of arrested activists since his release from jail in 2016.
Zhang was previously sentenced to two years' imprisonment on April 18,
2014 by Beijing's Haidian District People's Court, which found him guilty of "gathering a crowd to disrupt public order."
New Citizens' Movement activists Li Wei and Ding Jiaxi, who called publicly on Chinese officials to reveal details of their wealth, and veteran democracy activist Zhao Changqing were jailed at the same time on the same charge.
Exiled New Citizens' Movement activist Yuan Dong, who is now living in the United States, said he had spoken to Zhang's lawyer, who had recently visited him.
"He is currently in reasonably good mental and physical health," Yuan said. "Now we just have to wait to see when the trial will be."
He dismissed the charges against Zhang as trumped up.
"All he did was post a few things on Facebook and WeChat," Yuan said.
"He never did anything that was remotely related to terrorism."
Meanwhile, according to Liu, the authorities make no attempt to proceed according to their own laws.
"The situation is so bad right now, that I am preparing myself for the worst," he said.
Dozens of people linked in some way to the New Citizens Movement were detained around 2014, with at least seven activists linked to the movement handed formal jail terms, rights groups said at the time.
Movement founder Xu Zhiyong was China's highest-profile dissident to be sentenced to jail since 2009, when Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo was ordered imprisoned for 11 years for subversion after helping organize the "Charter 08" petition calling for sweeping political change and a constitutional government.
In May 2012, Xu penned an article titled "China Needs a New Citizens Movement," which is believed to have spurred the loose nationwide network of activists to action.
The article called on responsible citizens to oppose corruption and work to support disadvantaged groups, as well as holding political meetings and collaborating to achieve these goals.
Reported by Ai Shi for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.