August 7, 2015 / 11:37 AM / in 2 years

China accuses prominent rights lawyer of inciting subversion

BEIJING (Reuters) - Police in China have accused a prominent human rights lawyer of inciting subversion and creating a disturbance, her lawyer said on Friday, paving the way for possible formal charges.

Citing the need to buttress national security and stability, President Xi Jinping’s administration has tightened government control over almost every aspect of civil society since 2012.

Rights lawyer Wang Yu is one of more than 50 lawyers and activists who have been detained by authorities since last month, as part of a crackdown against civil society that has alarmed foreign rights groups and Western governments.

Wang works at the Fengrui Law Firm, which has represented high-profile clients such as ethnic Uighur dissident Ilham Tohti.

Police in the in the northern city of Tianjin accused Wang of the crimes of “inciting subversion of state power” and “causing a disturbance”, her lawyer, Li Yuhan, told Reuters.

Li said police told her that she could not meet her client because it was a case that “endangered state security”.

“I said ‘this is all nonsense’,” Li said by telephone. “The authorities put out the video of her saying that: ‘You all are thugs.’ Why not release the full video? And even if what she said was extreme, is that considered a crime?”

Calls to the Tianjin police’s news department seeking comment went unanswered.

Last month, state broadcaster CCTV showed footage of Wang scolding officials in a court as “thugs”. Activists said the release of the footage was a smear campaign.

Li said police had declined to tell her where Wang was, in violation of the law, and had not given her any details of the case.

Police investigators will now have to decide whether they have enough evidence against Wang to submit a request to the prosecutors’ office for her formal arrest and charging, Li said.

The detentions and questionings come on the heels of a months-long campaign in state media to discredit human rights activists for undermining national stability by using social media.

Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Writing and additional reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel

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