China detains two rights activists in widening crackdown

Beijing (dpa) – Two former directors of a Beijing-based human rights group have been detained, the group said late Sunday.

Guo Bin and Yang Zhanqing, former senior staff members of the Yirenping Center, were detained Friday and accused of “suspected illegal business,” the organization said.

Yang was taken from his home in Huizhou city of the southern province of Guangdong, and Guo was arrested at Shenzhen Children’s Hospital, where he was visiting his 2-year-old son, the statement said.

The two were former directors of the Zhengzhou branch of Yirenping in east-central Henan province.

Officials have not confirmed where the two are currently being held, but relatives believe the men will be transferred to the Zhengzhou Second detention centre on Monday, Yirenping said.

International human rights groups say the detentions are a sign of a wider crackdown on Chinese civil society.

“We are deeply worried about their detentions, as we think this is yet another blow for Yirenping, one of China’s few remaining rights advocacy organizations, as well as a warning sign to China’s embattled civil society,” said Maya Wang, China researcher for Human Rights Watch.

“The government’s ongoing campaign against this key non-governmental organization signifies the government’s strengthened resolve to control civil society and to crackdown on dissenting voices,” Wang said.

Yirenping, which works to end discrimination against women, carriers of hepatitis B and HIV, and people with disabilities, was a leading voice in demanding the release of five young feminist activists.

The women were detained in Beijing shortly before International Women’s Day on March 8, prompting condemnation from the United States and the European Union, and outrage in China.

The five were planning to distribute stickers with slogans, including a call for police to arrest sexual harassment suspects, when they were detained.

Chinese police raided Yirenping’s offices in late March and took away its computers and financial documents, the group said.

Authorities released the five women on bail in mid-April after holding them for more than a month, their lawyers said.

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