BEIJING — Chinese authorities have detained a well-known rights lawyer in an apparent bid to deter activists from marking the upcoming 25th anniversary of a brutal military suppression of pro-democracy protesters.
Pu Zhiqiang was criminally detained by Beijing police in the early hours of Tuesday, according to Qu Zhenhong, an associate at Pu's firm in Beijing who has been in contact with the lawyer's family.
Two of Pu's close friends, Beijing activist Hu Jia and Shanghai lawyer Si Weijiang, said the detention was likely the authorities' retaliation against Pu for attending a seminar in Beijing on Saturday to discuss the June 4, 1989, military crackdown on demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
"I believe the authorities are detaining Pu now so that he can't do anything between now and the anniversary and so his detention will create a panic and terror among those who wish to remember that day," Hu said by phone. Hu himself has been under house arrest since February, he said.
Pu enjoys mainstream prominence that is unusual for most dissidents. Despite his outspoken criticism of the government, he has been featured in magazines and interviewed about labor camps, against which he led high-profile campaigns. He has represented both high-profile dissidents such as the artist Ai Weiwei as well as the family members of Communist Party members who died in custody of the party's anti-graft investigators after being tortured.
Qu, Pu's colleague at the Huayi law firm, said police have accused Pu of "creating a disturbance" and that he was being held in a detention center in Beijing.
The vaguely defined crime has been increasingly used by Chinese authorities to detain and question political dissidents. Pu has not been formally charged.
Beijing police had no immediate comment.