A Chinese lawyer was “kidnapped” from a hotel in suburban Beijing hours after his journalist client, arrested for reporting Hong Kong’s Occupy Central movement, was released, according to the lawyer’s colleague.

Zhou Shifeng, who represented former Die Zeit news assistant Zhang Miao, was abducted from a hotel in Songzhuang, according to colleague Liu Xiaoyuan from Beijing Ruifeng law firm. His client walked free on Thursday after spending nine months in detention for helping the German magazine report on Occupy.

beijing human rights lawyer
Lawyer Zhou Shifeng. Photo: chinachange.org

Liu said on Twitter that Zhou was “forcefully taken away” by three unidentified men at around 7:30am on Friday. Zhang was staying in another room in the same hotel when the abduction happened, according to Liu.

Liu later said on Twitter other employees of the law firm, including an assistant and an accountant, had also disappeared. They have not answered their phones since before 9:00am today, Liu said.

Another human rights lawyer from the same firm, Wang Yu, was taken away from her home in Beijing early Thursday morning, according to the BBC’s Chinese-language website. Wang’s husband and son have also been incommunicado since, BBC said.

china human rights lawyer wang yu
Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Yu. Photo: Boxun News

Speaking to Hong Kong Free Press on the phone, Liu said the whole law firm is “panicking.” “Most lawyers in our firm are young, they’ve never seen anything like this,” Liu said.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it’s “aware and concerned” of reports about Zhou and his staff’s arrests. “However, we are unable to confirm the reports at the moment,” Maya Wang, the HRW’s Asia Division Researcher, told HKFP.

China has seen arrests and imprisonment of possibly hundreds of activists including lawyers since President Xi Jinping came to power more than two years ago, Wang added.

“The crackdown has also emphasised adherence of ‘correct’ ideology and Party supremacy among Party members, university lecturers, researchers, journalists, and a clear rejection of universal norms including human rights,” Wang said.

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.