A Chinese dissident writer said Monday that police in his hometown are holding three of his siblings in retaliation for an article he wrote condemning the detention of a fellow writer suspected of involvement in the posting of an anonymous letter online calling for the Chinese president's resignation.
Zhang Ping, better known by his penname Chang Ping, said by phone from his home in Germany that his two younger brothers and a younger sister were detained after they returned to the southwestern town of Duofu to celebrate their father's birthday.
Zhang said police were demanding that he cease his political writing and give up his column on the website of German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle. He said police also told family members that they want him to remove his article about the writer from social media sites where he posted it.
Asked by phone about Zhang's siblings, Duofu police said they are holding several people on suspicion of an arson attack committed during a homecoming visit but refused to give details. Zhang said he understood police were using the arson claim as a pretext to hold his brothers and sister.
Zhang had criticized the 10-day detention of writer Jia Jia over suspicions that he was linked to the posting of a letter that criticized President Xi Jinping's rule and called for him to step down. It briefly appeared on the government-controlled news site Watching.cn in early March.
Jia declined to discuss his detention or accept media interviews.
The president of Watching.cn, Li Wanhui, two top editors and two site technicians have also dropped from view for days and are believed to be under investigation. Nine other technicians working for a technology company that provides support to the site also are reported missing.
Similar to Zhang, another prominent overseas Chinese activist, Wen Yunchao, also has said that authorities in his southern Chinese home county of Jiexi have been holding his elderly parents and a younger brother since Tuesday in an apparent attempt to pressure him into admitting involvement in posting the letter. Wen has denied any ties to the letter.
The human rights group Amnesty International has urged Chinese authorities not to harass dissents' family members, saying such actions undercut China's claim to respect the rule of law.