Tang Jitian, an outspoken advocate for religious freedom in China, has been detained in Jixi, a small town bordering Siberia, after he tried to help a man whose wife had been placed in a labour camp on suspicion of being a Falun Gong member.
Tang and the man he was helping, Yang Kaicheng, were detained last Wednesday afternoon at the local 610 Office, a security agency in charge of prosecuting Falun Gong members, according to Xiang Li, a Beijing-based activist speaking on the phone from the city in Heilongjiang province.
Yang and Tang were detained on charges of “disturbing order in a workplace”, she told the South China Morning Post. “A quarrel broke out between Yang and the staff, and some of them raised their voices,” said Xiang.
Tang travelled to Jixi to assist Yang in the release of his wife, surnamed Yu, from the local laojiao labour camp. After guards denied them a visit, they went to the office, where they were detained.
On Thursday, the two were transferred to the city’s No 2 prison. By Saturday, nine lawyers from Heilongjiang, Beijing, Jiangsu and Shandong and elsewhere travelled to the border town to campaign for their release from administrative detention, which normally lasts five days.
A petition for their release began circulating online on Saturday and has so far amassed 174 signatures, including some of China’s most prominent rights activists Jiang Tianyong, Hu Jia and Wang Quanzhang.
Tang, 44, was born in Jilin province. He practiced law in Guangdong and Beijing, where his activism for religious freedom led to his law licence being revoked in 2010.