Notice of the detention, seen as reflection of Beijing’s effort to tamp dissent, came day before U.N. hearing.
HONG KONG – Police in Beijing have formally arrested a prominent Chinese businessman who turned his energies and wealth to supporting human rights causes, his lawyer said Monday. Wang Gongquan’s arrest marked another step in the Communist Party’s drive to deter dissent, supporters said. Notice of the decision came a day before China defends its human rights record at a U.N. hearing.
Wang’s lawyer, Chen Youxi, said in a brief telephone interview that a police officer had called him to say that Wang had been formally arrested Sunday on charges of “assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place.” Wang was detained on the same charges last month, and the decision to formally arrest him will give the police more time to hold him and build a case, on that or other charges.
“I still haven’t received a written notice and there’s no other information yet,” said Chen, who added that he was traveling abroad and did not want to say more. Officers at a detention center in Beijing where supporters have said Wang is being held would not answer any questions.
Wang is an unusually prominent and established target for Chinese police officers seeking to stifle political activism: He is a 51-year-old wealthy venture capitalist who made a fortune investing in real estate, high-tech firms and other ventures.
Several years ago, Wang shed the typical reluctance of many Chinese businessmen to openly criticize the government and began supporting advocates seeking broader legal rights, equal treatment of citizens and checks on state power. He is a friend of Xu Zhiyong, a prominent legal advocate in Beijing who was detained in July on the same disruption charges. In neither case have officials publicly explained the specific charges.
Although the Communist Party leadership under Xi Jinping has vowed major economic policy changes, it is wary of any political steps that could invite challenges to one-party rule.
Chinese officials may be asked to explain the detention and arrest of Wang and dozens of other politically active citizens at a U.N. meeting in Geneva on Tuesday. The meeting is part of a process, a “Universal Periodic Review,” in which U.N. member states offer their plans to improve human rights and answer questions from other member states.
In reports submitted to the review, many independent Chinese groups and international organizations have decried what they say is the continued use of arbitrary powers to stifle dissent, despite some improvements in China’s legal procedures.