“It was just too absurd. They must have received instructions to stop me from serving as the defense no matter what,” said Xu, a 33-year-old Beijing law professor who has made a vocation of taking up test cases for citizens’ rights.
Xu’s 22-hour detention last week was one among several detentions, house arrests and domestic deportations from Beijing in past days that have exposed a deepening struggle between China’s ruling Communist Party and a network of “rights defenders” seeking to use the law to challenge power.
Most worryingly of all, said activists, Beijing police detained the combative rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, whose causes have included disgruntled private oil investors and members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual group.
“As the rights defense movement has grown and matured, the authorities seem to be determined to take on the whole movement,” said Teng Biao, a young Beijing legal activist. “Gao Zhisheng’s detention is certainly a warning”.
But campaigners told Reuters their strategy of steadily pressing rights through courtroom skirmishes and Internet-driven publicity remained the best way to encourage broader change.