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Prominent Chinese Writer Taken by Police 'for Tea'

Huang Zerong, better known by his pen name Tie Liu, is seen in a photo from social media.

Huang Zerong, better known by his pen name Tie Liu, is seen in a photo from social media.

A prominent Chinese writer living under police surveillance in China’s southwestern city of Chengdu has been missing for nearly a week, according to friends and relatives.

The wife of the 83-year-old Huang Zerong, who is better known by his pen name Tie Liu, told VOA on Thursday that police from the Chengdu Public Security Bureau took her husband away "for tea" on May 13, offering no specific reasons for the apparent detention, nor how long he would be held.

“I don’t know why he was taken away. According to police, [it was] nothing serious, just some old problems," she said. "They seemed to [suggest] that he had failed to comply with certain rules and did not write reports of his thinking and failed to participate in studies. ... but I feel that is not the problem."

If police have concerns about Huang's activities, she added, they should be addressed via proper judicial channels.

Long history of speaking out, being arrested

Police have closed Huang’s WeChat online account twice since arresting him in late April for "creating a disturbance," sentencing him to five days of detention and a fine. Police later announced they had confiscated his personal identity cards as part of a six-month residential surveillance, during which he would not be allowed to travel.

Huang’s friends in Beijing say his disappearance may be linked to a recent visit to the city by Liu Yunshan, the Chinese Communist Party's propaganda chief. Huang was sentenced to prison in August 2015 for posting articles online criticizing Liu for opposing Chinese President Xi Jinping’s fight against corruption.

Huang was also one of the initiators of a March 2013 petition for increased freedom and political reforms, which was signed by more than 100 elderly Chinese citizens.

Huang was arrested in 2014 for "causing a disturbance" and "illegal business activity," resulting in a $4,800 fine and two-and-a-half year prison term that was indefinitely suspended pending good behavior.

Huang spent 25 years in labor camps for being anticommunist during Chairman Mao Zedong's rule. Some Chinese bloggers say his latest detention is just another example of a recent government clampdown on political dissidents and political commentators.

On April 21, President Xi publicly stated that the Communist party should welcome well-intentioned criticism from intellectuals and commentators, and officials shouldn't fault or punish critics.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Mandarin Service.