Rights group says China detains legal activist

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Originally published by LAS VEGAS SUN on August 18, 2013

Chinese authorities have detained Yang Maodong, a leading member of the country’s loose New Citizens campaign that promotes democratic rights, his friend and an international human rights advocacy group said Saturday.

It is the second such detention of a leader of the group after Xu Zhiyong was detained several weeks ago in Beijing.

Journalist Xiao Shu said that a sister of Yang was notified by the Tianhe branch of the Guangzhou police in southern China that Yang, who writes under the alias Guo Feixiong, was detained on Aug. 8 on the criminal charge of disrupting public order.

The Chinese Human Rights Defenders also reported Yang’s detention on Saturday. A woman at a local police office referred questions to a detention center, but the detention center refused to comment.

“Guo is the leading figure in southern China for the New Citizens movement, and Xu is the movement’s leading figure in northern China,” Xiao Shu said. “The way the authorities handle Guo’s case is exactly how they have been handling Xu.”

Xu is considered a moderate but outspoken voice in China’s beleaguered rights movement, campaigning for issues that include equal rights to education, and for officials to declare their assets.

While behind bars, Xu last week urged citizens to unite in pursuing democratic freedoms in a taped video that was posted online.

Yang, 47, is a legal activist and dissident writer. He had served a five-year jail sentence between 2006 and 2011, and the writer’s advocacy group, International PEN, has said Yang was targeted for his book that allegedly exposed official corruption in a northeastern Chinese city.

Since his release, Yang continued to work on rights issues, his wife Zhang Qing said.

Zhang said she last spoke to Yang on Aug. 7 and detected no sign of trouble. But he was out of contact from the next day.

His friends and supporters learned his fate only on Saturday when the official notification to his sister confirmed his detention.

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