A Hong Kong-based publisher who was working to release a dissident's book about President Xi Jinping has been detained on the mainland for nearly three months.
Yao Wentian, 73, the chief editor of Morning Bell Press, was taken into custody on October 27 after he was "lured" to Shenzhen on the pretence of delivering paint to a long-time friend, said a person who has spoken to Yao's wife.
Yao was surrounded by a dozen plain-clothes security agents and formally arrested in early November. Police have not revealed the charges against him, but they could possibly include smuggling and evasion of import tariffs. Calls to the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau went unanswered yesterday.
Yao had been in discussion with US-based author Yu Jie about the publication of a book about Xi entitled Chinese Godfather Xi Jinping.
Yu wrote China's Best Actor: Wen Jiabao, a harsh critique of the former premier that has been banned on the mainland since its 2010 release.
Yu wrote on his Facebook page yesterday that he had completed the first draft of the Xi book and was anticipating an April release. He said he and Yao were also working on a reprint of his 1998 debut Fire and Ice, a controversial collection of political essays.
"We had just finished with the editing and were about to print when he suddenly disappeared," Yu said. "I think his work on my Xi Jinping book is the main reason why he's been detained."
Yu said Yao had previously been harassed for their ties, including when they collaborated on Hu Jintao: Harmony King, a play on the former president's "harmonious society" concept.
"The Communist Party threatened me and gave him a hard time, but we continued with our plan to publish," Yu said.
Another person who has a professional relationship with Yao said his arrest "looks like a political persecution". "He went to Shenzhen often and never had an issue before," the person said.
People who have spoken to Yao's 74-year-old wife said the elderly publisher suffered from heart problems and had fainted repeatedly during his detention.
He is being held in the detention centre of a medical facility.
Yao's wife is said to be looking for a lawyer.
In September 2012, Yao wrote to Google complaining that his Gmail account had been hacked while he was preparing to print the Hu Jintao book.
"In the last eight hours, a third party hacked into my e-mail and changed the content again," Yao wrote. "Please help me investigate this matter."