Chinese man held for Liu flyers

2010-11-03 14:36

Beijing - Police in southern China have arrested and charged a rights campaigner with subversion for handing out flyers announcing Liu Xiaobo's 2010 Nobel Peace Prize win, fellow activists said on Wednesday.

The arrest took place in the city of Guangzhou, which hosts the mammoth Asian Games from next week and has launched a massive security operation aimed at ensuring the event goes off without a hitch.

City police informed the wife of Guo Xianliang on Tuesday that her husband had been arrested and was being charged with "inciting subversion of state power", Ye Du, a friend of Guo's, told AFP by phone.

It is the same crime for which Liu, 54, was sentenced to 11 years in prison last December after co-authoring Charter 08, a petition calling for sweeping political reform that has been circulated online and signed by thousands.

"I believe Guo is the first person to be arrested and charged for a crime linked to Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize," said Ye, a writer and supporter of the jailed dissident.

No comment from Chinese police

The Norwegian Nobel committee last month chose Liu as this year's recipient of the Peace Prize - a move that angered China's communist rulers and has led to the house arrest or strict surveillance of dozens of activists.

State-controlled media initially blacked out news of Liu's win, and has since printed a number of scathing diatribes against the activist in China's English-language press.

Police in Guangzhou refused to comment on Guo's arrest when contacted by AFP.

Wang Songlian, spokesperson for the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) activist network, said Guo's bid to inform ordinary Chinese of the Nobel Prize awarded to Liu was likely the main reason for his arrest.

"We think the Asian Games are another reason because Guangzhou authorities don't want any problems associated with the handling of the Games, which usually means controlling elements of instability," Wang told AFP.

Cops go through belongings

Wang added that police had only informed Guo's kin of the arrest by telephone and that the family had yet to receive the formal documents on the arrest and charges.

Guo's wife, Yang Di, refused to discuss the case with AFP when contacted by phone.

"This is unbelievable, it is ridiculous because it means that police are viewing the act of telling people about Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize as an act of inciting the subversion of the government," Ye said.

"This is a clear violation of even the most basic human rights."

According to CHRD, Guo, an engineer who lives in the southwestern province of Yunnan, had been passing out leaflets announcing Liu's win in the streets and parks of Guangzhou, which will stage the Asiad from November 12-27.

He went missing on October 28, it said in a statement.

On Tuesday, police also detained Ye for questioning in the case, but freed him after several hours. Police then went to Ye's home and confiscated two computers, a hard disk drive and several CD-ROMs, he said.

Rights groups have demanded China end the wide-ranging crackdown on Liu's supporters, including on his wife Liu Xia, who remains under house arrest in Beijing.

"With the Asian Games coming, all the civil rights defenders in Guangzhou are facing a reign of red terror - a lot of people are being investigated, questioned, detained or arrested," Ye said.

"We are living in an atmosphere of fear - it is worse than (the police crackdown) ahead of the Beijing Olympics."