Lawyer freed, another vanishes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 May, 2011, 12:00am


Missing rights lawyer Li Fangping was released last night after being detained for more than 100 hours. But his release coincided with the disappearance of another prominent rights lawyer, just like the day Li himself disappeared.

Li confirmed by telephone that he had arrived home around 7pm but declined to comment further.

The release was unexpected as Li (pictured) had called his wife yesterday morning - the first call after he had disappeared on April 29 - saying he was 'still sorting out some business' and might come home in a few days.

'He told me to eat well and sleep well, and to go to work as normal. He told me to be patient,' Li's wife said.

'He didn't respond to any of my questions. It was only him speaking, and it was abruptly cut off.'

Just before Li was taken into custody, the lawyer called his wife to say that 'state security police' were waiting for him at an NGO meeting at which he was giving advice on an employment discrimination case for a worker with hepatitis.

On that day, rights lawyer and law professor Teng Biao was released after he disappeared for more than two months.

And coinciding with Li's release yesterday, Li Xiongbing became the latest to join a list of rights lawyers who have 'disappeared' since the government launched a crackdown on dissidents and critics.

Associated Press reported that Li called his wife Wu Haiying yesterday afternoon, saying he would be away for a few days and not to be worried if she was unable to reach him during that time. The call was then cut off and Wu was unable to subsequently get through.

'I am worried, because many of our friends have disappeared. Li Fangping's wife also received a similar phone call during his disappearance. I think now it is [Li Xiongbing's] turn,' Wu said.

Wan Yanhai, founder of the Aids advocacy group Aizhixing who fled to the United States with his family a year ago in the face of rising threats, said Li Xiongbing had worked on numerous human rights cases and had represented Aizhixing and another rights advocacy group Gongmeng in their dealings with officials.

Li Fangping, who has just been released, had in the past decade defended tainted milk activist Zhao Lianhai , Aids activist Hu Jia and blind rights advocate Chen Guangcheng .

Zhao, the tainted-milk activist who is under tight surveillance, broke his silence again to call for the lawyer's release.

'[I am] extremely worried and upset about Li, and I hope he can go home as soon as possible,' Zhao, father of one of the 300,000 infants made ill by melamine-tainted milk powder in 2008, said on his Twitter account on Tuesday.

Li's wife declined to speak to media after the release. But she said earlier that she would continue to support Li's work even though his disappearance was frightening.

'I never considered his work as sensitive, but rather something he did because of kindness,' she said.