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Chinese Lawyer Informally Detained After Supporting Other Lawyers

FILE - Chinese lawyer Yu Wensheng interviewed at his office in Beijing, July 23, 2015.
FILE - Chinese lawyer Yu Wensheng interviewed at his office in Beijing, July 23, 2015.

A Chinese lawyer who spoke up on behalf of rights lawyers persecuted by authorities was himself taken away by police in handcuffs, his wife said Friday.

Police came just before the midnight Thursday and pried open locks to the door at Yu Wensheng's Beijing apartment and stormed in, his wife Xu Yan said. The officers took Yu away in handcuffs and confiscated his computer, flash drives and other digital storage units, Xu said.

Beijing police did not respond to a faxed request seeking confirmation.

Xu said her husband was summoned on suspicion of causing troubles, although he was yet to be formally detained.

Beijing has detained about two dozen rights-defender lawyers since early July, accusing them of being part of a criminal gang that sabotaged China's legal system, but critics say the lawyers are being punished for their insistence that the law be followed faithfully and the government held accountable.

Hundreds of lawyers across the country have been told not to speak up for those in police custody, but Yu ignored the warnings and spoke to foreign media, including The Associated Press.

The crackdown on lawyers is "to intimidate others, so that they don't stand up and they don't fight for democracy and human rights," Yu said in a late-July interview with the AP.

"Their crackdown can work temporarily, but it won't last long," he added. "Right now, there are lawyers that are standing up, that are fighting back, they keep litigating and making statements."

In the interview, Yu blasted China's claim to rule of law as a hollow slogan. Yu also wrote an open letter addressed to the top national offices, urging them to investigate the Public Security Ministry and saying that police were "creating an atmosphere of terror in the country, flagrantly violating the criminal law, and conducting acts against humanity."

Yu's wife said the lawyer had been told by his minders not to voice support for the detained rights lawyers.