China Formally Arrests Top Investor-Turned-Tweeter

china-wang-gongquan-2010-305.jpg Wang Gongquan speaks at a forum in Beijing, Dec. 29, 2010.

Authorities in the Chinese capital have announced the formal arrest of a popular social media activist and businessman on public order charges amid an escalating crackdown on online "rumors," lawyers said on Monday.

Outspoken venture capitalist Wang Gongquan, who used his account on the Sina Weibo microblogging service to support civil rights campaigns, was formally arrested by Beijing prosecutors on Sunday, paving the way for a trial.

"Regarding the case of Wang Gongquan, it isn't convenient for us to release [details] at this time," an employee who answered the phone at the Hangzhou-based Jingwei law firm said.

"However, the details we can talk about have already been released by our director on his microblog account and on academic websites," she said.

"The family has been informed that the [prosecution] departments in charge of Wang Gongquan's case have formally arrested him according to law," Chen wrote on his personal Sina Weibo account on Monday.

"The arresting department is department No. 1 of the Beijing municipal procuratorate, and the charges are "gathering a crowd to disrupt public order."

"A lawyer has managed to meet with Wang Gongquan four times in recent days, and will apply one more time for the removal of coercive measures [bail]," the tweet said.

Open letter

Chen's announcement prompted an open letter signed by 18 prominent activists and scholars, including Beijing film professor Cui Weiping, Guangdong journalist Xiao Shu, author Murong Xuecun and pro-democracy activist Chen Ziming, slamming the arrest as politically motivated and calling for his immediate release.

Wang was detained on Sept. 13 on suspicion of "assembling a crowd to disrupt public order" in a move that is widely seen as part of a nationwide crackdown on anti-corruption activists loosely known as the New Citizens' Movement.

Wang had tweeted many times in support of the movement, which has organized demonstrations since March calling on top government officials to disclose their assets. He is a vocal supporter and close friend of founder member Xu Zhiyong, detained in July after helping members of the movement.

President Xi Jinping has launched a nationwide clampdown on corruption, warning that the ruling Chinese Communist Party must beat graft or lose power.

But police continue to detain activists who call for greater transparency.

Dong Rubin

Wang's detention came after authorities in the southwestern province of Yunnan province charged detained businessman and well-known microblogger Dong Rubin with flouting public order and committing business-related offenses.

Dong, a vocal opponent of plans to build a petrochemical plant near the provincial capital Kunming, which sparked mass protests on the city's streets earlier this year, has been formally arrested and charged with "picking quarrels" and "running an illegal business."

China's highest judicial authorities issued a directive on Sept. 1 criminalizing online "rumor-mongering," in a move widely seen as targeting critical comments and negative news on the country's hugely popular social media sites.

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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