A Chinese musician arrested on public order charges for singing about late Nobel peace laureate and political prisoner Liu Xiaobo has been formally arrested, while his collaborator has been forced to leave Foshan, where he has a job and a family, a rights lawyer said on Tuesday.
Singer-songwriters Xu Lin and Liu Sifang were being held in Nansha and Jiangxi respectively after they wrote songs together in memory of Liu, who died in police custody of late-stage liver cancer in July.
Xu Lin was formally arrested for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” on Nov. 2 while fellow singer activist, Liu Sifang, was released on bail.
"Without regular contact with his family and a lawyer, Xu Lin is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment," London-based rights group Amnesty International said in a recent statement.
Rights lawyer Sui Muqing visited Xu in the Nansha Detention Center in Guangdong's provincial capital Guangzhou on Monday, he said.
"The charge of picking quarrels and stirring up trouble has become one of the main charges used to crack down on freedom of speech," Sui said. "Most people who get detained for posting something online are charged with this offense."
"Picking quarrels and stirring up trouble is a charge pinned on dissidents and rights activists for what they say," he said.
Sui said Xu had requested not to have a lawyer, following a pattern set by other detained activists who strike a deal to plead "guilty" in return for more lenient treatment.
But Sui said Xu didn't want to use up resources needed by others.
"The main reason was that he didn't want to take up resources available to other people, not that he was refusing to hire a lawyer," he said.
Fellow rights lawyer Lin Qilei, who was also at the meeting, said Xu seemed in high spirits, and certain of what he was saying.
Lin said the direction police questioning suggested that the singer-songwriter was being held in connection with the Liu Xiaobo song.
Wife under 24-hour surveillance
Xu Qin, of the China Human Rights Observer group, said Xu's wife has been hard-hit by his detention, however.
"Xu Lin's wife is under huge pressure right now, because after he was detained, [the authorities] installed surveillance cameras in the family home," Xu Qin said. "They are also watching them round the clock, and they follow them everywhere."
"She isn't allowed to have contact with anyone outside the family, nor can she give interviews to the foreign media," she said.
"The family have been very worried ever since they received the notice of formal arrest."
She said Xu Lin hasn't committed any crime.
"This case is all about the policing of free speech, in the spirit of the [ruling] Chinese Communist Party's 19th congress [last month]," she said.
Meanwhile, Liu Sifang, in spite of being released on bail on the same charge, has now been forced to leave Foshan, where he lives with his wife and works at a private school, Sui said.
"He lives with his wife in Foshan, and they both work at a private educational establishment there," Sui said. "He had barely been back at work a few days when the Foshan state security police starting telling him to leave town."
"Not directly, of course, but they put pressure on him via his employer, who had no choice but to tell him to leave," he said.
Liu Xiaobo died weeks after being diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer, and repeated requests from his family to seek medical treatment overseas were ignored.
His wife Liu Xia, who has never been charged with any crime, remains under house arrest and continual police surveillance in spite of continued international calls for her unconditional release.
Police have since detained a number of activists who staged memorials in Liu's honor, including Zhuo Yuzhen, detained in Guangdong's riverside town of Jiangmen for taking part in a seashore memorial a month after Liu's passing.
Zhuo Yuzhen, who hails from the southeastern province of Fujian, was formally arrested by police from his hometown and has been sent back to Guangdong to face investigation and prosecution.
Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Yang Fan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.