Chinese activists have launched a postcard campaign for the release of a prominent rights activist and anti-censorship campaigner detained on suspicion of subversion in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong at the beginning of the month.
Zhen Jianghua was taken away from his home in Guangdong's Zhuhai city on the night of Sept. 1 on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power," fellow activists told RFA.
His home was searched and several devices including computers, mobile phones, cameras, and other items were confiscated.
Zhen is believed to be under criminal detention in the Zhuhai No. 1 Detention Center. A lawyer hired by his family was denied permission to visit him on Wednesday on the grounds that the case touches on matters of "national security."
But Zhen's friend and fellow activist Ou Biaofeng said the detention center had also told his family and friends that he is no longer being held there, having been "taken away" by the Zhuhai branch of the state security police.
"I think that this is a pretty serious situation for him," Ou said. "First, the authorities turn over his place, and then they proceed directly to pressing charges of incitement to subvert state power against him."
"Things aren't looking very good for him right now," he said.
Calls to the cell phone of Zhen's lawyer Wen Yu resulted in a switched-off message on Thursday.
Many locked up
A friend of Zhen's based in the southwestern region of Guangxi said he is taking part in the postcard campaign.
"It's just like [jailed rights lawyer] Tang Jingling and the others," the friend said. "So many of our friends have been locked up, and if you send things to them, they don't receive them."
"But that doesn't matter: at least we will be letting the staff at the detention center know that there are a lot of us out here who care about him."
Zhen is executive editor of ATGFW.ORG, an online portal which promotes access to information by educating people about internet censorship in China and how to gain access to censored websites by circumventing the Great Firewall.
According to the overseas rights group, Frontline Defenders, he is also a technical consultant with Human Rights Campaign in China, an advising expert with Chinese Wikipedia, and a project officer of a HIV/AIDS prevention education project in Zhuhai, run by the Hong Kong AIDS Foundation.
He has previously been detained by state security police for traveling to Guangdong's rebel village of Wukan following a crackdown by armed police in September 2016, on suspicion of inciting protests there, the group said.
Attempt to frighten
Guangdong rights activist Wang Aizhong said the charges against Zhen are likely aimed at frightening other activists, rather than pointing to an actual breach of national security.
"So many people have been detained here in the past few years [for subversion]," Wang said. "That includes a group of more than a dozen in Shenzhen who were detained, allegedly for subversion."
"The authorities detain people on these charges deliberately to strike fear into the hearts of other rights activists and social activists in the wider community," he said.
The ruling Chinese Communist Party has begun a nationwide clampdown on its more than 730 million internet users since the beginning of the year, moving to curb the use of circumvention tools like virtual private networks (VPNs) and deleting swathes of foreign content not previously approved by the government, under a dracionian new cybersecurity law.
Authorities in China's southern province of Guangdong on Thursday handed a nine-month jail term to Deng Jiewei after he allegedly set up a website in October 2015 to sell software helping users to scale the complex system of blocks, filters, and human censorship known collectively as the Great Firewall.
Deng stood accused of running the site with friends, and being responsible for the technical side of the business, according to the judgment in the case issued by the court.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.