Beijing Police Detain Octogenarian After Critical Article

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Chinese police try to stop photos being taken of the Jingxi Hotel as the ruling Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee holds it's secretive Third Plenum in Beijing, Nov. 12, 2013.
Chinese police try to stop photos being taken of the Jingxi Hotel as the ruling Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee holds it's secretive Third Plenum in Beijing, Nov. 12, 2013.

Authorities in Beijing have detained outspoken writer Tie Liu for "stirring up trouble" after he criticized a former senior official in the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Huang Zerong, 81, widely known by his pen-name Tie Liu, was detained by police at his Beijing home early on Sunday morning, his lawyer said on Monday.

"He was taken away just past 1.00 a.m., and criminally detained at noon, for 'picking quarrels and stirring up trouble'," Beijing-based rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan told RFA. "They also detained his caregiver."

"Tie Liu's wife said he is in trouble because of an article he wrote recently," Liu said.

He added: "I spoke to his wife this morning, and she said the family is just waiting to see what happens."

"They haven't decided yet whether or not to hire a lawyer, because police regulations state that people over 70 [under investigation] don't have to be held, although they don't say that they mustn't be held," Liu said.

Police also searched Tie's Beijing apartment, confiscating books and other publications, computers, and other personal items, he said.

Tie, an outspoken critic of the Communist Party and who served more than 20 years in prison for being a "rightist" during the rule of Mao Zedong, is currently being held in Beijing's No. 1 Detention Center.

Repeated calls to Tie's Beijing home resulted in a busy signal on Monday.

A duty officer who answered the phone at the Beijing municipal police department declined to comment on the case.

Press controls

One of Tie's recent articles was highly critical of the tight controls on press freedom imposed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party's former propaganda czar Liu Yunshan, who retired from the post in 2012 after 10 years in office.

The article, titled "Cast off the Shackles, Enlighten the Masses, Wipe out Liu Yunshan's Counterrevolutionary Crimes," was still visible online from Hong Kong on Monday.

"Liu Yunshan is a person of the lowest order...and the driving force behind the corrupt elite in charge of China's media," the article said.

Liu, a staunch supporter of former security czar Zhou Yongkang, currently under investigation for corruption, is the biggest thorn in the side of the current administration under President Xi Jinping, it said.

"He is more evil than [former propaganda chief] Deng Liqun and more left-wing than [former Xinhua news agency chief] Hu Qiaomu," wrote Tie, who served a total of 23 years in prison during the "anti-rightist" political campaigns during the Mao era.

He was eventually rehabilitated with the advent of Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms in 1980.

Shock waves

Tie's sudden detention sent shock waves through China's human rights and dissident community, according to Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia.

"I think the Communist Party has gone crazy, if it's now detaining an 81-year-old man for 'picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,'" Hu said.

"Also, we never thought that an intellectual so admired by Xi Jinping would get detained."

He said it is still unclear whether Liu Yunshan himself is behind Tie's detention.

"Two things are clear, though: one is that speech crimes won't be tolerated, and the other is that even an 80-year-old man with such a painful past, the victim of one of the Communist Party's own political campaigns, can be subjected to a revenge attack of this kind," Hu said.

"This is totally unacceptable," he said.

Outspoken writer Ling Cangzhou said via Twitter: "It doesn't matter whether you're 81 or 108; the iron fist of the dictatorship of the proletariat grinds all flesh to the same pulp."

"The Red Dynasty has silenced Tie Liu ... and yet they still claim that they rule by law," Ling wrote.

Tie, a native of the southwestern province of Sichuan, founded a magazine focusing on the injustices of the "anti-rightist" campaigns, which was later banned by the government.

He also founded a fund in 2010 to help writers and journalists victimized by the authorities.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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