Authorities in the southern province of Guangdong are widening the net in an ongoing crackdown on critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party with the detention of an Internet user for "rumor-mongering," activists and their relatives said on Friday.
Liu Sifang was taken away from his home in the provincial capital Guangzhou in the early hours of Friday morning on suspicion of "using the Internet to spread rumors," his wife told RFA.
Liu, whose detention was linked to a tweet he had sent about the detention of fellow activist Ou Bo, was then taken by police to the town in the southwestern province of Sichuan where he was born, in spite of the fact that he now lives and works in Guangzhou, Lu Lina said.
Police had also searched the couple's home and confiscated their computers, Lu said.
"They grabbed hold of me and one of them wrenched the computer away from me," she said. "I chased them as far as the stairwell to try to get it back, but one of them pinned me to the ground."
"I was very angry, and I instinctively tried to bite him," Lu said.
Lu said police, only one of whom wore a uniform, offered no documents or ID, but simply told Liu he was being detained for questioning.
Liu later said he had been released under escort from the local police station, but declined to talk for long, suggesting he was still under close surveillance.
"I'm not exactly free," Liu said. "They are sending me back [to Sichuan] and I'm on the way there now...It's not convenient for me to talk right now."
Another activist detained
On the same day, Guangzhou-based activist Jia Pin was intercepted on his way to visit friends in Guangdong's Dongguan city and told to leave the area, he said.
"I was taken by three people, acting in the name of state security, to the Bubugao police station in Dongcheng district of Dongguan at around 9 a.m.," Jia told RFA on Friday.
"The municipal state security police there asked me what I had come to Dongguan for, who I was seeing, and when I planned to leave," Jia said.
"Then they drove me to my hotel, where I packed up my stuff, and left."
Jia said the police said they didn't want to see any "activism, demonstrations or placard-waving protests" in Dongguan.
Three netizens arrested
Last week, Guangdong authorities formally arrested three netizens on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power" after they posted satirical and pro-democracy tweets to social media.
Liang Qinhui, also known by his online nickname "Sharp Knife," was detained by police in Guangdong's provincial capital Guangzhou.
Police also detained Zheng Jingxian, known by his online nickname "Right Road for China" and Huang Qian, known by her online nickname "Jailbreak Archive," lawyers told RFA at the time.
On Sept. 1, 2013, China's highest judicial authorities issued a directive criminalizing online "rumor-mongering," in a move widely seen as targeting critical comments and negative news on the country's hugely popular social media sites.
The Cyberspace Administration is campaigning to blacklist websites that don't offer what it considers to be "lawful Internet information and communication," while censors have called on the public to provide "enthusiastic tip-offs" from all sectors of society regarding undesirable content.
Rights groups say that since President Xi Xinping took power in November 2012, censorship has been stepped up to include criticisms of the government that are merely implied or repeated.
Meanwhile, a Guangzhou-based rights activist who was tried last year on public order charges in the southern Chinese city, has been subjected to torture and mistreatment while in police detention, prompting him to refuse food, harm himself and attempt suicide, his lawyer said.
Sun Sihuo, better known as Sun Desheng, stood trial in Guangzhou's Tianhe District People's Court on Nov. 28 for "gathering a crowd to disrupt public order" alongside fellow activist Yang Maodong, better known by his pseudonym Guo Feixiong.
The two men have been held in police detention since 2013, after taking part in street protests for press freedom and calling for greater government transparency and protection for human rights. The court hasn't yet announced a verdict or sentence.
Sun's lawyers said he was "tortured and mistreated" during disciplinary procedures at the Tianhe District Detention Center, but was denied permission to complain about his treatment to the center's director.
Sun's defense lawyer Chen Jinxue said the activist's treatment has slightly improved in recent weeks.
"There has been a minor improvement in his treatment, but he told me that he is still being subjected to strip searches every month, and they remove his underwear and make him jump around," Chen said on Friday.
"This is unacceptable, because it is a violation of human dignity, and we will be complaining to the relevant authorities," he said.
The charges against Guo and Sun were based on their activism linked to anti-censorship demonstrations outside the cutting-edge Southern Weekend newspaper offices in Guangzhou in early 2013.
Meanwhile, the subversion case against Guangzhou-based rights lawyer Tang Jingling has been resubmitted to state prosecutors after being sent back for "further investigation," his wife told RFA.
Tang's wife Wang Yanfang said she felt "pretty sad" at the news.
"He hasn't done anything that is against the law," Wang said. "We have repeatedly called on the authorities to stick to the rule of law, and we still hope that this will be achieved."
Reported by Yang Fan and Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.