China rights lawyer Li missing, wife pleas for information

Mon May 2, 2011 12:49am EDT
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By Chris Buckley

BEIJING (Reuters) - One of China's most prominent human rights lawyers, Li Fangping, remains missing three days after he called his wife to say he was being led away by state security police, apparently the latest target of a crackdown on dissent.

Li disappeared Friday, the same day that Chinese authorities released his friend and fellow rights lawyer, Teng Biao, whose secretive detention for over two months was raised in Beijing last week by Michael Posner, the United States' top diplomat on human rights.

Li, a slightly built and gently spoken Beijing lawyer who has taken on many politically contentious cases, appears to be another target of the Chinese Communist Party's campaign to stifle dissent, which has led to the arrest, detention or informal jailing of dozens of dissidents, human rights advocates and grassroots agitators.

"There's been no news about him since Friday. The police have not given me any information," Li's wife told Reuters by telephone. She asked only that her surname, Zheng, be cited, fearing that giving her full name would bring more pressure.

Zheng said Li had first called her to say he was heading home Friday afternoon, but then called again.

"He called then to say, 'There are state security police downstairs and they are going to take me away. I won't be coming home now, eat dinner by yourself'," she said.

Zheng said she tried calling him back, and heard Li telling someone he was speaking to his wife. Then the call cut off, and later the phone was turned off, she said.

"The reported disappearance of high-profile human rights lawyer Li Fangping the very same day that Teng Biao was released suggests that security forces are conducting a carefully planned assault on outspoken human rights defenders," Phelim Kine, Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch, a New York based advocacy group, said in an emailed comment.   Continued...