“One In, One Out”: Human Rights Lawyer Li Fangping Detained

Human rights lawyer Li Fangping has been detained in Beijing, hours after the release of Teng Biao, in an apparent “revolving-door trick” designed to influence public perception of the crackdown. From Chinese Human Rights Defenders:

Around 5 pm local time on April 29, Beijing-based human rights lawyer Li Fangping (李方平) was kidnapped by unidentified individuals outside the offices of the health rights NGO Beijing Yirenping Center, of which he is a legal advisor. Li was able to speak briefly with his wife, telling her, “I may be gone for a period of time… can’t talk more.” Further efforts to contact him have been unsuccessful, and his whereabouts are unknown.

The news of Li Fangping’s abduction comes on the heels of reports that prominent human rights lawyer Teng Biao (滕彪) was released earlier that afternoon after 70 days of enforced disappearance . Teng Biao’s wife, who confirmed his return, said she could not comment on his health or any other details of his disappearance. While the timing of Teng’s release initially seemed to signal a positive response by the Chinese government to this week’s U.S.-China human rights dialogue, the disappearance of Li shortly thereafter quickly dampened any hope that pressure on human rights activists in China might be easing. These actions raise renewed questions about the limits of international pressure on the Chinese government, as well as the effectiveness of human rights dialogues.

“In recent months, and especially during this crackdown, we have seen that torture to enforce silence is becoming a frighteningly common experience for those disappeared or detained,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s International Director. “The Chinese authorities, in the meantime, are resorting to an old trick, the revolving-door approach—one in, one out—to create the impression that things are improving.”

Li Fangping is a prominent Beijing-based human rights lawyer who in recent years has represented a number of high-profile victims of political and religious persecution, including, among others, Chen Guangcheng, Yang Chunlin (杨春林), Hu Jia (胡佳), and Zhao Lianhai (赵连海). He has faced frequent harassment from officials, and, on December 27, 2006, was severely beaten and suffered head injuries after he and another lawyer were assaulted en route to visit Chen Guangcheng in a Shandong Prison.

See also CDT posts on Li’s involvement in issues such as Green Dam Internet filtering and tainted milk.