Chinese rights lawyer released amid crackdown

A top Chinese rights lawyer has returned home after two months in police custody, his wife said on Wednesday, amid a fierce crackdown on government critics and activists.

Scores of other attorneys, dissidents and campaigners remain in police custody, under house arrest, or face charges in the government’s onslaught against dissent, a rights group said.

Jiang Tianyong, a lawyer known for taking on sensitive rights-related cases who was taken into police custody on February 19, returned to his Beijing home on Tuesday night, his wife Jin Bianling said.

“He’s back. His health is okay. He is tired, it is not convenient for him to talk,” she said by phone.

Jiang and several other rights lawyers disappeared into police custody as anonymous online calls urged Chinese activists and dissidents to stage “Jasmine” protests similar to the unrest that swept the Arab world, toppling authoritarian regimes.

Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) said more than 50 activists have been taken into police custody and many more placed under house arrest during the crackdown.

They included Ai Weiwei, a prominent artist and fierce critic of China’s Communist Party rulers, who was taken away in early April.

The government has said he was being investigated for unspecified “economic crimes” but has provided no further details. His detention has drawn worldwide criticism.

Of those detained, nearly 40 have been criminally charged, with many facing charges of subversion, CHRD said. Rights groups say China’s government routinely abuses the subversion charge to silence its critics.

Jin declined comment on whether Jiang would face charges or whether he was under house arrest.

Other lawyers and activists welcomed Jiang’s release, but said it was too early to say it marked a softening of the crackdown.

“This is still a sensitive issue and it is still risky [to engage in rights activism],” rights lawyer Li Fangping said.

“We still need to wait and watch what the authorities do.” — AFP

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