Veteran rights activist Hu Jia, who returned home in the early hours yesterday after being summoned by Beijing police on a charge of "provoking and stirring up trouble", said authorities appeared to be collecting evidence against him for an arrest that will lead to a lengthy jail term.
Hu, who remains under house arrest, said police had warned him he could face a jail term of over 10 years should the authorities decide to take action.
"Yes, I could be arrested any time," Hu said. "But I really have no fear at all."
During nearly eight hours in custody, Hu said he was repeatedly interrogated about comments he posted on Twitter on a number of issues, including him calling for a rally in Tiananmen Square to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1989 military crackdown, urging people to wear masks to protest at Beijing's bad air, and calling on fellow citizens to follow the example of Ukrainians to stand up to an unpopular government.
He said he was also questioned over his expressions of concern about the arrest of the Uygur scholar Ilam Tohti and the self-immolations in Tibet as well as his support for the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader.
Hu said he was also interrogated about his links to members of the Beijing house church Shengai, or Holy Love, Christian Fellowship. He had urged some members to rally outside court when Xu Zhiyong, founder of the New Citizen movement, and six fellow civil rights activists were put on trial last month.
Thirteen from the fellowship were put in criminal detention on January 24 and were only released this week.
One said yesterday police accused them of staging "illegal assemblies and demonstrations" as well as "provoking and stirring up trouble". Police also interrogated her over Hu's role in the protests in support of Xu.
Hu said the police interrogation this week, together with another 24-hour session one month ago on the same charge, appeared to be part of efforts to gather evidence to build a case against him.
He said he had to sign more than 260 printed pages of his own Twitter messages to admit he was the author. Hu said he had also taken part in more than 10 street protests in the past to call for officials to declare their assets.
Because of the wide range of issues he was involved in, Hu said the authorities could arrest him on a number of charges, including "subverting state power", "provoking and stirring up trouble", "assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place", and even secession charges because of his support for causes in Tibet and Xinjiang.
Hu said that when he was summoned last month, a police officer told him his alleged crime was "much more serious" than Xu's and he could receive a jail term three times longer than his. Xu was last month jailed for four years on the charge of "assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place".
"It is intended as a warning and intimidation," he said. "But none of this will have any effect on me."
Hu insisted he had done nothing wrong, as mainland citizens had the right to demonstrate and express their views, although he was mentally prepared for possible arrest.
"In my life there is bound to be a second jail term - this is 100 per cent for sure. This is a choice I've made for my life and I'll have no regrets," he said.
Hu, 40, recipient of the European Parliament's Sakharov human rights prize, was jailed for 3½ years in 2008 for "inciting subversion of state power" for his civil rights activism.
The Beijing Public Security Bureau did not respond to a faxed request for comment yesterday.