Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have detained an online activist who posted in memory of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who died in custody of liver cancer on July 13.
Qin Mingxin was detained by police in Guangdong's Foshan city after taking part in an online memorial campaign that involved photographs taken on the seashore, in a reference to the burial of Liu's ashes at sea by the authorities, activists told RFA.
He is currently being held in Foshan's Xinhui Detention Center, Guangdong-based writer Ye Du said, adding that Qin isn't the only person in the province to have been detained in connection with Liu's death.
"There have been a few like-minded people here in Guangdong who have been treated in a similar way by the authorities for making memorials," Ye said. "We think that any form of memorial should count as the expression of one's personal feelings [and not a political act]."
"One guy, Qin Mingxin, was detained, and is now being held under criminal detention," he said.
He said Qin was among a number of activists detained at the beach in Xinhui, near Guangdong's Jiangmen city, as they marked a full seven days since Liu's death on July 19.
Hong Kong media named another detainee as Li Zhaoqiang.
A Hunan-based dissident who asked to remain anonymous said the detentions were unacceptable.
"I would like to express my protest over the detention of online activists who carried out memorial activities for Liu Xiaobo," the dissident said. "This is utterly ridiculous."
He called on the authorities to allow Liu's widow Liu Xia, who has been incommunicado since her husband's death, to speak freely.
"We are hoping to hear Liu Xia's own, true voice, although that may not be very likely given the current political circumstances in China," the dissident said.
Friends and fellow activists expressed growing concern over the disappearance of Liu Xia and her brother Liu Hui, who are believed to be under close surveillance by China's state security police at an unknown location, amid growing fears for Liu Xia's mental health.
At the time of his death at the age of 61, Liu had been serving an 11-year jail term for "incitement to subvert state power," linked to his online writings promoting democracy and constitutional government. They included Charter 08, a document that was signed by more than 300 prominent scholars, writers, and rights activists around the country.
In the document, the former literature professor called for concerned Chinese citizens to rally to bring about change, citing an increasing loss of control by the Communist Party and heightened hostility between the authorities and ordinary people.
Liu's late diagnosis, and the refusal of the ruling Chinese Communist Party to allow him to go overseas on medical parole, had sparked widespread public anger, with the governments of Germany and the U.S. offering him the best possible treatment.
Now, concerns are growing over the mental and physical health of Liu Xia, who has reportedly asked to be allowed to go overseas to seek treatment herself.
Liu Xia disappears
Beijing-based activist Hu Jia, a friend of Liu Xia's, said there is currently no news of her, amid unconfirmed reports in the Hong Kong media that she has returned to Beijing.
"One or another of our friends has been visiting her apartment every day to see if any lights are on," Hu told RFA on Wednesday. "But nobody has seen any lights, so we can at least say that she hasn't come back to her own apartment [if she is in Beijing]."
"We have no way of getting in touch with [her brother] Liu Hui right now, so we have no way of confirming whether or not she really has returned to Beijing," Hu said.
Radio Television Hong Kong cited an unnamed source on Wednesday as saying that Liu and her brother have indeed returned to the capital, but are both being closely monitored and haven’t been allowed to return home.
A friend of Liu also said she’s not being allowed to contact any of her associates, the government broadcaster reported.
"As for whether or not talks are under way with the U.S. [to allow Liu Xia to leave], I have tried to confirm this, but the officials will only tell me that they don't know anything about this at all," Hu said.
"But I think that diplomatic channels are the only way now, and Germany and the U.S. have been the first to stand forward [to offer help], and after that the EU," he said. "They have expressed their willingness to help out in support of Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia."
Call for release
Meanwhile, rights activists in Hong Kong staged another protest outside Beijing’s liaison office in the city on Wednesday, calling for Liu Xia's immediate release.
Richard Tsoi, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, said they are also calling for the release of fellow activists like Qin.
"We demand that the authorities immediately release anyone who was detained for seashore activities or memorials for Liu Xiaobo," Choi said. "At the same time, we are very concerned about the situation of Liu Xia, and the government should allow her to return home."
"She should be at liberty to return to her home, and to choose her own path in life," he said.
Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.