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China detains editor of human rights website in subversion probe

The editor of a Chinese website monitoring human rights issues has been detained on suspicion of subverting state power, according to an announcement on the website.

Liu Feiyue, founder of the website Minsheng Guancha, was taken away earlier this month by police in the city of Suizhou, Hubei province. The site said Liu’s family had been told he was under investigation for subversion, a vaguely defined charge often levelled against human rights activists and dissidents.

Minsheng Guancha, known in English as Civil Rights Livelihood Watch, was founded in 2006 and documents protests, land seizures, unannounced detentions and other alleged human rights violations that are typically ignored by China’s state-run media.

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Liu has published stories about China’s detentions of dissenters and activists, one of a few people living in mainland China to do so. His website has alleged that China has committed hundreds of perceived troublemakers to mental hospitals under the guise of giving them psychiatric treatment. He has also documented local corruption cases and protests by veterans seeking benefits after their discharge from the military.

Liu has been detained multiple times for brief periods, often during high-profile events such as meetings of the National People’s Congress or international summits.

If he is convicted of subversion, Liu could face life in prison, the maximum penalty for anyone guilty of organising a “scheme of subverting the state power or overthrowing the socialist system”.

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Word of Liu’s detention comes shortly after news that another activist has disappeared. The wife of legal activist Jiang Tianyong said on Thursday that he had not been heard from since Monday. Jiang represented some of China’s most politically sensitive figures in recent years, including the dissident lawyer Gao Zhisheng and blind activist Chen Guangcheng.

Patrick Poon, a researcher for Amnesty International, said the cases of Liu and Jiang were “worrying”, and a possible sign of “another wave of crackdown against human rights defenders”.

An official who answered the phone at the Suizhou public security bureau on Friday said he had no knowledge of Liu’s detention. Calls to Liu’s mobile phone rang unanswered on Friday.