A well-known poet from the southern province of Guangdong has been detained after he helped produce an anthology of poems commemorating the late Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo.

Wu Mingliang, who is better known by his pen name Langzi, was taken from his home by police officers and criminally detained on August 18 upon suspicion of “illegal business operations,” according to Amnesty International.

The poet Langzi. Photo: Supplied to RFA.

The NGO said his lawyer and friends believe that Wu is being detained for taking part in writing, editing and compiling an anthology of poems commemorating the prominent dissident, who died of liver cancer in a hospital under police surveillance in July.

China received international criticism for its treatment of Liu, the only Nobel laureate to die in custody since German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who passed away in a hospital while held by the Nazis in 1938.

At the Haizhu District Detention Centre in Guangzhou on August 23, Wu told his lawyer that officers had repeatedly questioned him about an exhibition catalogue of his work which he published without permission from authorities.

Peng Heping, a friend of Wu who helped him publish the catalogue, was also detained under the same charge on August 29.

Rough treatment 

The Independent Chinese PEN Center, of which both men are members, said in a statement that the two were roughly treated, and that their detention contravened their rights to freedom of expression, according to US-backed Radio Free Asia.

“The right of poet Langzi to exercise his civil rights and freedoms with the publication of the memorial poetry anthology for Liu Xiaobo through the use of fabricated charges is giving rise to a miscarriage of justice,” it said.

A memorial for Liu Xiaobo in Hong Kong. Photo: Ellie Ng/HKFP.

“This will cause serious harm to… literary creativity and the constitutional rights of Chinese citizens.”

At the beginning of July, before Liu’s death, Wu was held for ten days after co-signing a letter in his support. He was repeatedly asked about the anthology dedicated to Liu at the time.

Meng Lang, a Taiwan-based writer who organised the compilation of the anthology, told RFA that they planned to publish it in September, but its publication was suspended due to Wu’s detention.

At least nine activists were detained in late July after they participated in seaside memorials for Liu in Guangdong province, according to Amnesty, which added that six were released after about a month.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.