A Beijing poet and political activist who posted a performance art selfie in support of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement has been subjected to torture and mistreatment while in police detention, his lawyer said on Friday.
Wang Zang is being held in Beijing's No. 1 Detention Center on suspicion of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," after being taken away by police on Oct. 1.
His detention came after he posted a photo of himself online holding an umbrella and making a middle-fingered gesture in support of Hong Kong's Occupy Central mass civil disobedience movement calling for universal suffrage in the former British colony.
According to his lawyer Sui Muqing, Wang was held in a padded cell for the first five days of his detention and subjected to intense stress, leading to a heart attack.
"He was deprived of sleep and forced to remain standing for four nights in a row, which led to his heart attack," Sui told RFA, adding: "He had never been diagnosed with heart disease up until that point."
"He was also beaten up a bit ... although not particularly seriously."
Sui, who held a brief meeting with Wang in the detention center on Thursday morning, said the charges against his client are based on his performance art, including the photograph, and his poetry and writings.
"The performance art part relates to the photograph in support of Occupy Central as well as his support for the human rights lawyers who got beaten up in [the northeastern city of] Jiansanzhuang," he said.
Sui said via his microblog account on Thursday that Wang Zang's appearance had "changed a great deal" since his detention.
"Unfortunately, owing to technical considerations, I was unable to take a photo," he wrote.
Wang has also used performance art photographs to show support for detained Guangzhou rights lawyer Guo Feixiong, women's rights activist Ye Haiyan and to commemorate the execution of Mao-era dissident Lin Zhao, Sui said.
Wang's poetry is also being cited as evidence to support the charges, including "Epitaph Without a Tombstone," a lament for uncounted numbers of unnamed Chinese citizens whose deaths are linked to government actions.
"The cemetery is a foreign import, where the corpses of the people lie, sending out random roots and shoots," the poem reads.
A later verse takes up imagery of dreaming, in a veiled reference to President Xi Jinping's slogan, "the Chinese dream."
"To begin with, the dream is a wet dream ... and our crotches are full of the soldiers of the party," the poem says.
The 64-verse structure echoes the date of the June 4, 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen Square democracy movement, while the last three verses each consist solely of the repeated words "Darkness," "Emptiness," "Self-Immolation" and, finally, "Om."
Also listed as a charge against him is an article Wang wrote in support of Zhang Haiying, an artist from Beijing's Songzhuang Artists' Village who was also detained in connection with Occupy Central, Sui said.
Wang has also expressed opinions through his accounts on Twitter and Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent, in support of jailed Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, self-immolating Tibetans and followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, which the authorities have designed an "evil cult," Sui said.
"The trigger for his detention was his support for Occupy Central, but it seems as if they are using this as an opportunity to settle some old scores," Sui told RFA.
According to Sui's tweet, Wang, who is worried about his wife, young child and elderly parents, has already "made mental preparation for the worst possible outcome."
"He wants to thank all those friends who have come to offer their help and support to [his family]," Sui wrote.
Dozens of activists across China have been detained since Sept. 22 for publicly supporting the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong, which ended earlier this month after calling for public nomination of candidates for the 2017 elections for the territory's chief executive.
Six of them—Cui Guangxia, Zhu Yanguang, Fei Xiaosheng, Ren Zhongyuan, Ding Ting and Zhang Miao, a news assistant from the Beijing bureau of Germany's Zeit News—were taken away by police after they attended a poetry recital evening in support of the "Umbrella Movement."
Wang didn't attend the recital, but posted his photograph instead.
Under current electoral reform plans endorsed by Beijing, candidates will be directly elected by all of Hong Kong's five million voters, but must be approved by a committee selected by the ruling Chinese Communist Party before being allowed to run.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.