Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have formally arrested an online activist for subversion after he publicly supported Hong Kong's Occupy Central pro-democracy movement, his wife and lawyer said.
Huizhou-based Ye Xiaozheng, known online by his nickname Humian Yizhou ("A boat on the lake"), is being held on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power," his wife Zhong Shuimei told RFA on Thursday.
"I went to visit him [in the detention center on Wednesday]," Zhong said. "It lasted 20 minutes."
"He said the food was terrible and that the rice was often not cooked properly, so he always had to buy food separately," she said.
"His mood was pretty normal; we didn't talk for very long, because we weren't allowed to discuss anything to do with his case," Zhong said.
Zhong said she is very worried that Ye will receive a prison sentence.
"I am afraid they will charge him and send him to prison, and there are also the lawyer's fees to pay," she said. "I won't be able to afford them."
Ye's lawyer, Sui Muqing, said he had also visited his client on Monday.
"He has been moved to a different cell, and he told me that the detention center guards won't let him talk to anyone else in the cell," Sui said.
"The other people are saying he's a traitor to China."
"Incitement to subvert state power," a charge listed in Article 105 of China's Criminal Law, carries a maximum jail term of five years, but this can be extended for those regarded as "ringleaders" or in serious cases.
Sui said Ye, a vocal activist who has posted online in support of democratic reforms, constitutional government and official corruption, was "psychologically prepared" to do time in jail.
"He just never thought he would do it on account of Occupy Central," he said.
Ye was initially detained on Dec. 18 by Huizhou police, and is being held at the police-run Huizhou Detention Center, where he told Sui he was shackled for long periods and subjected to "harsh interrogation," the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) group said in a recent report.
Last year, Ye posted a photo of himself online during Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement holding a banner saying "Protesting for Freedom," and a T-shirt with the slogan: "When the people fear the government, then there is tyranny."
According to CHRD, which compiles and translates reports from rights groups inside China, 113 mainland activists had been detained for supporting the Occupy Central campaign by Jan. 27, while 74 have since been released.
"Many mainlanders have expressed their support by traveling to Hong Kong to join the protests, or meeting in small gatherings and posting messages on social media, including photos of themselves' holding signs in support of the protests," CHRD said in an online report on the detentions.
"Police have harassed and intimidated countless others by visiting their homes and issuing warnings, or putting them under house arrest," it said, adding that still others have gone into hiding.
While the majority of Occupy-related detentions were in Beijing, activists have also been detained in Chongqing, Shanghai, Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Hunan, Jiangxi, Liaoning, and Shandong, it said.
An illegal movement
Chinese officials said the Occupy Central movement, which was encamped on major highways in the former British colony for more than two months beginning on Sept. 28, is illegal, while official media said it was instigated by "hostile foreign forces" in Hong Kong.
Beijing has also said that the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration is "void" and that China answers to no one in exercising sovereignty over Hong Kong.
According to political commentator Liang Jing, however, Chinese President Xi Jinping is likely to back away from such rhetoric about the Umbrella Movement in the future for fear of damaging ties with the United States.
"Morally, the United States couldn't fail to support the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, but to accuse it of manipulating them [the protestors] behind the scenes is nonsense," Liang said in a commentary broadcast on RFA's Cantonese Service.
"This won't do the bilateral relationship, nor Xi Jinping himself, any good at all."
The Occupy movement has campaigned for Beijing to withdraw its electoral reform plan, which it says is "fake universal suffrage," and allow publicly nominated candidates to run for chief executive in 2017.
An Aug. 31 decision by China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), decreed that all 5 million of Hong Kong's voters will cast ballots in the 2017 poll, but may only choose between two or three candidates vetted by a Beijing-backed election committee.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.