A veteran Chinese dissident who has been held in detention at an unknown location since January now faces subversion charges, while his wife remains "disappeared," fellow activists told RFA on Tuesday.
Wuhan-based dissident Qin Yongmin, who has already served a lengthy jail term for helping to found the banned opposition China Democracy Party (CDP), was taken from his home by state security police officers on Jan. 21.
Qin's wife Zhao Suli was also taken to an unknown location in April, prompting a nationwide "search for Qin Yongmin" by fellow rights activists, who collected hundreds of petition signatures.
Qin, 58, who also served time in the wake of the 1981 "Democracy Wall" movement, now appears to be facing charges of "incitement to subvert state power," fellow rights activist Liu Feiyue told RFA, citing an official summons document handed to his fellow campaigner, Shi Yulin.
"It stated very clearly on the summons document that that he was being summoned in connection with the Qin Yongmin incitement to subvert state power case," Liu said.
"They wanted to get information about him for the case, and that's why they summoned him," Liu said. "This is actually about the authorities trying to gather evidence."
Shi now heads the China Human Rights Observer group that Qin founded.
Liu said he believes that Qin is currently under criminal detention or possibly formal arrest on suspicion of subversion, and has yet to be indicted.
Due process denied
He said the authorities can "throw due process to the winds" because the case is categorized as a national security case, and that Qin's family had received no notification of the investigation or potential charges against him.
He said Zhao is now likely being held under police surveillance at an unknown location, and has remained incommunicado.
An official who answered the phone at the Wuhan municipal police department's surveillance team declined to comment on Qin's whereabouts.
"I have no way of checking that for you," the official said. "There are so many agencies within the Wuhan police department."
Activists first began to be concerned about the couple after most of their fellow activists were released from annual police surveillance at the end of the parliamentary sessions in March.
While many others detained or forced by state security police to take "vacations" during the National People's Congress (NPC) later reappeared, there was no news of the Qins.
Zhao Suli's three sisters filed a missing person's report on the couple at their local police station in April, but were prevented from visiting their home in Wuhan to look for clues by police guarding the entrance to his apartment.
'Too many articles'
Qin was initially detained by local state security police in January for "writing too many articles recently and giving too many interviews to overseas media organizations," according to his friends.
He was held for 10 days under administrative detention starting Jan. 19, but was never subsequently released. Instead, the authorities took Zhao away as well.
Liu said he wasn't surprised at the subversion investigation, however.
"This was within our expectations, because the authorities have always been uneasy about a nongovernment rights group like China Rights Observer, which is still trying to get registered," he said.
"Even before Qin Yongmin was detained, the authorities had persecuted this group on a number of occasions," Liu said. "The secretary-general Liu Xinglian was formally arrested, while [fellow activist] Pan Lu received a warning and a summons, and many of its rank-and-file members were detained."
"That's why it's not surprising that the main person responsible for this group, Qin Yongmin, has now been charged with subversion," he said.
A contemporary of exiled dissident Wei Jingsheng, Qin was sentenced to eight years in prison for "counterrevolutionary propaganda and subversion" in the wake of China's Democracy Wall movement in 1981.
He served a further two years' "re-education through labor" in 1993 after he penned a controversial document titled "Peace Charter."
Qin then served a 12-year jail term for subversion after he helped found the CDP in 1998 in spite of a ban on opposition political parties by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Ka Pa and Ho Shan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.