Two prominent defenders of the public interest in China have disappeared this past week. Amnesty International is calling on the Chinese regime to release the location and current status of a prominent Beijing human rights lawyer, Li Xiongbing, and a journalist, Zhang Jialong; both are believed to be in police custody.
Li has been missing since Wednesday, when it appears he was arrested after receiving a telephone call from police, Amnesty said. Li is well known for taking on politically sensitive cases such as those of Chinese AIDS NGO Aizhixing, and cases with the legal aid organization Gongmeng, which fights sensitive cases pro bono.
Zhang, 23, who previously worked as a journalist with the Beijing-based finance magazine Caijing, and wrote on the recent detention of artist Ai Weiwei, went missing April 28 after being approached by Beijing police. In 2008, Zhang reported on the Sanlu milk scandal. The scandal put a spotlight on government corruption after infant formula tainted with the chemical melamine killed six children and caused some 300,000 more to become ill.
Since February, popular uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East have put the Chinese regime on edge, afraid a similar popular movement will erupt in China. To prevent dissident momentum from growing, Chinese authorities have proactively arrested dozens of activists, lawyers, and bloggers. Some of these activists and lawyers disappear for days and are then released. Several have refused to speak about their detention, Roman Catholic press agency, Asia News reported.
On Wednesday human rights lawyer Li Fangping was released after being detained for five days and has declined to speak about his past week in detention.
Writer and human rights activist Ding Fangguan (also known as Gu Chuan), and lawyers Jiang Tianyong and Teng Biao, were also released last month. The three are being forced to remain under illegal house arrest, Amnesty reported.