Chinese human rights attorney Wang Yu has been detained overnight by police in Beijing on her way to attend a Women's History Month event at the U.S. Embassy, her husband said.
Wang was detained by police after arriving at the embassy to take part in a seminar titled "Using the Law to Combat Domestic Violence" to mark Women's History Month, but hadn't brought her ID card. It is unlikely that police didn't know who she was, however.
Police detained her in handcuffs in spite of protests from embassy officials that she was an invited guest at the event, and held her for nearly 20 hours, Wang's husband Bao Longjun told RFA.
Beijing-based rights activist Tang Zhishun said he was present during Wang's detention, and said police had used excessive force when taking her away.
"They wanted to check her ID, but Wang Yu hadn't brought her ID card and couldn't remember the number," Tang told RFA. "They said that if she didn't cooperate with the police, that she would be immediately placed under coercive measures."
"They just picked her up and carried her into the police vehicle, two of them, then they ... pinned her to the back seat and put handcuffs on her," he said. "The police have unlimited powers ... the diplomats were there and they saw it all, too."
"She has now regained her freedom, and she's OK," Bao said. "The officers in charge of her case were pretty rude."
Bao said police had checked Wang's ID under a section of Chinese law allowing for such checks where there is reason to suspect someone.
"So you get carted away in handcuffs for not having your ID?" he said. "The police wield too much power."
Bao said Wang is a frequent guest at the U.S. Embassy, and has been "closely following" the cases of detained fellow rights attorneys Ge Jueping, Yu Wensheng and Li Yuhan.
"I think they got pretty angry about that, on top of which Wang Yu has a lot of contact with the embassy, which they hate," Bao said. "Otherwise there's no way they would have come to check Wang Yu's ID and then taken her away immediately like that."
An officer who answered the phone at the Chaoyang district police department said Wang's case was being "handled according to law."
But he declined to comment further. "We will not tell you about the case if you just call up," he said.
Beijing-based activist Chen Yanhua said police claimed that their ID check was carried out in accordance with Article 9 of China's Police Law.
"I heard Wang Yu say that she hadn't brought her ID card," Chen said. "The embassy staff also said 'we invited her,' but the police didn't care. [They] said, 'you have to cooperate with the investigation'."
Bao said police had told Wang she was detained on suspicion of "obstructing officers in the course of their duty."
Chen said her detention was unlikely to be linked to the content of the lecture she was giving, which wasn't politically sensitive.
"The content of this lecture was very ordinary, which is how to use the law to prevent domestic violence," he said. "There were no political issues involved."
Guangxi rights lawyer Tan Yongpei said police had likely intended to prevent Wang from attending the lecture, however.
"The Chinese police have taken this approach in order to prevent citizens from attending the event, and also from attending court trials [of fellow lawyers]," Tan said.
"They just shut you down for 24 hours, and there's nothing you can do about it," he said.
Wang and Bao were both detained in a massive nationwide crackdown on rights lawyers and activists that began in July 2015, targeting the now-shuttered Beijing Fengrui law firm.
The crackdown later broadened into a nationwide operation targeting more than 300 lawyers, law firm staff, and associated rights activists for detention, professional sanctions, house arrest, and travel bans, including for family members.
The couple were released under police surveillance after Wang made a televised "confession" to charges of subversion, which she later said was made out of fear of violence against her son Bao Zhuoxuan, who was in police custody following her own arrest.
Wang told Hong Kong's South China Morning Post in 2018 that she had agreed to make a forced confession after the authorities threatened to stop her from seeing her son.
She said later she learned her teenaged son, Bao Zhuoxuan, had been handcuffed, shackled, isolated, beaten and intimidated by Chinese security officers after she was taken into custody. Wang was released in July 2016, the paper reported.
Reported by Ng Yik-tung and Tam Siu-yin for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.