BEIJING (AFP) — Police in China have arrested prominent rights activist Hu Jia on charges of inciting subversion amid a crackdown ahead of the Beijing Olympics next year, campaigners and a rights group said Saturday.
"The police have arrested him and are accusing him of inciting subversion," activist and Hu's friend Liu Feiyue told AFP.
A group known as Chinese Human Rights Defenders said police forced their way into Hu's home in Beijing on Thursday, cut off his telephone and Internet connections and took him away.
"We believe that Hu Jia was criminally detained solely because of his peaceful activities in promoting human rights," the group said in a statement that called for his immediate and unconditional release.
Hu's wife Zeng Jinyan, also a well known dissident, remains under house arrest with her one-month-old baby daughter, the group said. Activists said police had confiscated her mobile phone and that of Hu's mother.
The arrest showed China was intensifying a crackdown on attempts to use the Olympics to promote human rights, Liu said, adding he himself had been under police surveillance for three months.
Rights lawyer Teng Biao told AFP that Hu's detention was linked to his rights work ahead of the Beijing Games.
"Before the Olympics the authorities will adopt stricter measures to deal with human rights activists," Teng said. "Without more concern from the international community, more people will be arrested."
Hu, 34, and his wife have spent many periods under house arrest over the last few years, but have used the Internet to spotlight rights abuses across China.
In earlier years they helped to expose a government-backed blood donation drive in central China, which led to an AIDS epidemic among thousands of unsuspecting farmers.
Fellow activist Qi Zhiyong, who was crippled by a tank when the military crushed the 1989 pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square, said he was shocked by Hu's arrest.
"They claim that he wrote articles that opposed the Olympics, but he never opposed the Olympics, he only wanted to expose human rights abuses," Qi told AFP.
Hu was used to threats from the authorities but continued to defend human rights despite them, he said.
The Paris-based organisation Reporters Without Borders released a statement condemning Hu's arrest and calling for his release.
It urged the European Union and the international community to rally to Hu's defence so that "he does not become another victim of China's pre-Olympics repression."
In early December the organisation awarded Hu and Zeng a special prize for their defence of human rights in the face of government oppression ahead of the Beijing Olympics, the statement said.
Hu last contacted AFP on Thursday, when he sent an email saying that jailed activist Guo Feixiong had begun his seventh hunger strike in a prison in China's southern Guangdong province after being beaten by guards.
Hu said in the email that he had been "under illegal house arrest by state security police" for 222 consecutive days and that there were 225 days to go to the Olympic Games.
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