Police from the central Chinese province of Hunan have detained three non-governmental organization (NGO) workers on suspicion of subversion, RFA has learned.
Cheng Yuan, Liu Yongze and Xiao Wu, all of whom are members of the public interest law NGO, Changsha Funeng, have been incommunicado since about 12:45 p.m. on July 22.
The three are being held by the state security police in Hunan's provincial capital Changsha on suspicion of "subversion of state power," according to a lawyer connected with the case.
They are being held at the Hunan Provincial Security Agency Detention Center in Changsha, according to online posts made by Cheng Yuan's wife Shi Minglei.
"At about 8:30 a.m. on the morning of July 22, as we were getting ready to go to work, [state security police] charged in through the door," she wrote.
Cheng, his wife and kindergarten-age daughter -- who were living in the southern city of Shenzhen -- were escorted to the daughter's school by several female officers, where Cheng left her in the care of the teacher, Shi wrote.
Both Cheng and Shi were then handcuffed, and their home searched by state security police.
Cheng was then taken away, while Shi had a black hood placed over her head, and was taken to the nearby neighborhood committee offices for interrogation, she said.
"By about 5.00 p.m. that day, they had announced that Cheng Yuan was suspected of subversion of state power and was being placed under residential surveillance," Shi wrote.
Cheng's brother Cheng Hao said police had taken him to a detention center run by state security police in Changsha.
No likelihood of violent resistance
He said that the level of brute force used by police in the arrest was unnecessary.
"My sister-in-law said they smashed in the door and came charging in, with somebody behind filming the whole thing," Cheng Hao said.
"I can't see why they would do this, unless it was just to show the great power of the police, because Cheng Yuan had no gun or knife, so there was no likelihood of violent resistance," he said.
"Even if there had been, they shouldn't have acted that way in front of his wife and daughter," he said.
State security police have prevented friends or relatives from visiting any of the detainees.
Liu Yongze and Wu were arrested at their homes in Changsha.
Wu's father, Zhejiang-based lawyer Wu Youshui, said he had received notice of his son's criminal detention.
"I can't express my opinions on this matter for now, because there are very strict regulations on me right now, and I'm not allowed to give any interviews to foreign media," Wu Youshui said.
Changsha Funeng co-founder Yang Zhanqing said the organization's Changsha office has stopped operating, while other members of staff were also detained by police.
"Changsha Funeng is a public welfare NGO, not a political organization," Yang said. "We mainly promote transparency of government using [requests for] government information disclosure."
"We investigate the legality of official documents issued by local government," he said. "Our legal activities are all carried out within the framework of the Chinese constitution and existing laws, and are also in line with international human rights regulations."
Changsha Funeng was set up in 2016 to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities, as well as to promote government transparency via its document review process.
Cheng Yuan, who heads the organization, is an experienced public interests and legal activist, having been involved in defending the rights of the vulnerable for over 10 years, according to the Democratic China website.
"He has represented about a dozen hepatitis B and AIDS discrimination cases, and contributed hugely to removing systematic hepatitis B discrimination in China," the group said.
It also cited his involvement in an AIDS employment discrimination case in Jinxian county, Jiangxi province in 2013, the first ever in which someone living with HIV received compensation for employment discrimination.
Since 2013, Cheng has also worked for the abolition of the "one child" population control policy, and reform of China's hukou, or household registration, system, it said.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.