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Rights group condemns alleged detention of dissident’s family

March 25, 2016

Amnesty International decried China’s detentions of dissidents’ relatives Friday, after a New York-based writer told AFP his parents and brother had gone missing.

The holding of Wen Yunchao’s family members would be the latest in a widening crackdown following publication of an anonymous letter calling on President Xi Jinping to resign.

Wen Yunchao, a prominent government critic who now lives in New York, told AFP Friday that a relative told him the three were “taken away” from their home in the southern province of Guangdong by government officials without explanation.

“The authorities should call off the political hounding of those suspected to be behind the open letter and release all those detained in connection with it,” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International.

“The persecution of family members of dissidents is a draconian and unlawful tactic that makes a mockery of China’s claims to respect the rule of law.”

The letter, signed “Loyal Communist Party Members”, appeared on a Chinese media outlet, four of whose staff have gone missing, a colleague told AFP on Thursday. According to reports as many as 16 have been detained.

Wen has denied writing the letter. But he said that officials in Guangdong believed he had “helped spread it”, and had told his family that if he did not reveal its source his brother would lose his job.

“I believe the disappearance of my parents and brother is directly connected to this,” he said.

Media criticism of top leaders is almost unknown in China, where the press is strictly controlled by the ruling Communist Party.

The letter, seen by AFP in a cached form, berated Xi for centralising authority, mishandling the economy and tightening ideological controls.

“Due to your gathering of all power into your own hands and making decisions directly, we are now facing unprecedented problems and crises in all political, economic, ideological, and cultural spheres,” it said.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.