Newspaper article International New York Times

China Holds Lawyer Who Said Police Tortured Him ; Arrest of Rights Defender Is Latest in Crackdown That Has Snared Hundreds

Newspaper article International New York Times

China Holds Lawyer Who Said Police Tortured Him ; Arrest of Rights Defender Is Latest in Crackdown That Has Snared Hundreds

Article excerpt

Yu Wensheng, 48, was taken away after more than a dozen police officers forced their way into the family's Beijing apartment, his wife said.

A Chinese lawyer who defied the authorities by speaking publicly about being tortured in police custody and who had become a vocal critic of a continuing government crackdown on human rights lawyers has been detained by the police, his wife said on Friday.

The lawyer, Yu Wensheng, 48, was taken away in handcuffs late Thursday night after more than a dozen police officers forced their way into the family's Beijing apartment, said his wife, Xu Yan.

She said in an interview that the police had confiscated a computer and memory stick from the apartment and had said Mr. Yu would face criminal charges of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble," a nebulous, catchall accusation increasingly lodged against Chinese rights advocates.

Mr. Yu's detention comes amid a concerted assault in China on so- called rights defense lawyers, a small but audacious band of legal defenders who have been willing to take on politically sensitive cases.

Over the past month, about 250 lawyers and members of their support staffs have been detained or questioned by the police, and about two dozen remain in custody, according to rights advocates.

Though few of the detained lawyers have been officially charged or given access to legal representation, the state news media has characterized them as "black hands" and "criminal thugs" who encouraged social unrest by organizing protests outside courthouses and aggressively confronting judges.

Rights advocates say the campaign against rights lawyers is the latest installment of a continuing effort to rein in civil society groups and government critics that began after President Xi Jinping of China assumed office in late 2012.

Mr. Yu, a commercial lawyer who only recently began taking on politically charged cases, disappeared for three months last year after he protested his inability to see a client being held at a local detention center in Beijing. …

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