A rights group in China has said that Chinese writer and activist Li Xuewen was taken away by police on Tuesday. The group said Li’s detention may be related to his participation in a memorial for Nobel Peace laureate and dissident Liu Xiaobo.
Freedom for Liu Xiaobo Action Group, a group formed by friends of Liu, said it lost contact with Li on Tuesday around 4pm after the writer was asked to present his identification document at the Guangzhou railway station. It later confirmed that Li was detained at the station.
The group suspected that his detention was related to his attendance at a commemoration for Liu Xiaobo that took place in Guangdong in July. At least ten participants were arrested and subsequently released on bail following the event, according to the group.
Ye Du, a Guangdong-based activist and family friend of Liu, said on social media that Li’s arrest revealed the Chinese government’s determination to eliminate all dissenting voices.
Li tweeted a number of posts about Liu on Tuesday afternoon. He has not updated his social media account since.
In one of the tweets, Li said: “Ever since the Liu Xiaobo incident, I have been reflecting on the effectiveness of morality [in campaigning]. Civil society has always focused on moral values… but as morality has lost its power under authoritarian rule, shouldn’t civil society seek an alternate path?”
— 思文 (@lixuewen7575) December 19, 2017
An independent scholar and writer, Li was born in the landlocked Hubei province in central China. The group said Li twice became unemployed after publishing articles in foreign newspapers and participating in events commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre.
Liu died of multiple organ failure in July following a battle with liver cancer. The 61-year-old passed away while on medical parole.
He was arrested in 2008 after co-writing Charter 08, a petition that called for the protection of basic human rights and reform of China’s political system.
He was jailed for 11 years in December 2009 after being convicted of “subversion.” Liu was also known for his participation in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, which ended in bloodshed.
Since Liu’s death, authorities have restricted his wife Liu Xia’s contact with the outside world. Her whereabouts remain unknown despite calls from the United States, the European Union and international rights groups for the Chinese government to let her leave the country.
In a letter to the 2009 Nobel Literature Prize Laureate Herta Mueller, which was made public earlier this month, Liu Xia said she was “going mad” and compared her life in insolation to that of “a plant.”
Dissident writer Yang Tongyan also died of cancer in custody last month, less than three months after he was released on medical parole.
In 2015, Buddhist monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche passed away while serving jail time for inciting separatism. Rights groups said his health rapidly deteriorated after being tortured in prison.
According to New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch, China has seen the “worst erosion” of human rights since the 1989 Tiananmen incident under President Xi Jinping’s leadership.