China has detained prominent rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang on the charge of “causing a disturbance,” what is seen as an attempt to deter activists from marking the upcoming 25th anniversary of the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.
According to newspaper South China Morning Post, Pu had been criminally detained by Beijing police after attending a meeting to commemorate the 1989 crackdown on democracy as well as “explore its implications and consequences and call for an investigation into the truth of June 4.’’
At least 15 people – scholars, activists and relatives of the victims killed in the Tiananmen crackdown – attended the gathering at a private home in Beijing on May 3, 2014. At least five other people taken away for questioning after the meeting.
Pu is a prominent figure in the Weiquan movement, having advocated for writers and journalists in a number of high-profile cases, including artist Ai Weiwei. He was featured in magazines for leading campaign against labour camps.
Due to his outspoken criticisms of official policies, Pu is monitored by security forces, and has been detained and questioned on several occasions. Pu was banned from all microblogging platforms in China in 2013 after he used them to publicly criticize retired senior leader of the Communist Party Zhou Yongkang.
Pu also participated in the 1989 pro-democracy movement as a student.
Any information related to the Tiananmen movement is still censored in China. A search of “Tiananmen” on popular microblogging Sina Weibo reveals a message telling users that results cannot be found according to related laws and regulations.
Many lawyers showed concern for Pu and called for Pu’s release on Weibo. However, most messages supporting Pu were deleted.
Bejing Lawyer Deng Shulin‘s message was soon deleted:
Pu Zhiqiang must be released. Is arresting lawyers the future direction of judicial reform?
Well-known Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi asked her Weibo followers to watch a movie about how lawyers uphold justice:
“The attorney ”, a lawyer who pursues democracy, rule of law and justice fights for the truth and deeply inspires. The movie is based on the true story of former Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun. No need to repeat here how the film looks, go see it for yourself.
Human Rights Watch’s Maya Wang commented on Twitter:
Detention of Pu and others r the best ads for the 25th anniversary & is attracting exactly the kind of attention the authorities don't want.
— Maya Wang 阿莲 (@wang_maya) May 6, 2014
Journalist Sui-Lee Wee quoted an essay by Pu on Twitter:
Gd time to read Pu Zhiqiang's essay on June 4. “If every1 forgets, are we not opening the door to future massacres?” http://t.co/TXTI1kYizI
— Sui-Lee Wee 黄瑞黎 (@suilee) May 6, 2014