Human rights in China

Swedish NGO worker detained on ‘criminal coercive measures’ set up group to ‘endanger China’s security’, Beijing says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 January, 2016, 11:20pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 June, 2017, 1:03pm

A Swedish NGO worker detained on the mainland has been accused of setting up a non-profit organisation – that is registered in Hong Kong as a company – with a Chinese rights lawyer to carry out activities that “endanger state security” – including helping the teenage son of a detained lawyer flee abroad.

State security organs and police authorities jointly “smashed an illegal group which worked under the name of Chinese Urgent Action Working Group that received long-term overseas funding to train and fund many agents to carry out criminal activities that harmed state security,” state news agency Xinhua said.

It said Peter Dahlin, 35, a co-founder of the group, had been detained on “criminal coercive measures”.

READ MORE: What China’s crackdown on lawyers says about authorities’ fear of burgeoning rights defence movement

Last week, the foreign ministry said Dahlin, whose group offered legal aid to Chinese citizens, had been detained for “harming the national interest”. His group said he was taken into custody on January 4.

Xinhua said Dahlin and Chinese rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, from Beijing Fengrui law firm, who has been detained since July, registered a group called Joint Development Institute Limited in Hong Kong in 2009.

The group, which Xinhua said was not registered on the mainland, had funded activist Xing Qingxian to “collude with overseas [forces]” to smuggle detained rights lawyer Wang Yu’s son, 16, abroad. The attempt in October failed and the boy and those who helped him were repatriated to the mainland from Myanmar.

Wang and four colleagues from his firm were formally arrested this month on the charge of “subversion of state power” after being held for six months.

READ MORE: Detained human rights lawyer, Wang Yu, on Chinese state TV informed of ‘failed attempt to smuggle son overseas’

Critics say Beijing is cracking down on rights advocates such as lawyers to stifle a burgeoning rights defence movement.

Xinhua alleged that the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group had received funding from seven overseas groups to build a dozen legal aid organisations to fund and train lawyers, petitioners and “used them to collect negative information about our country, to twist, exaggerate and even to fabricate and provide ‘China human rights reports’ to overseas [groups].”

Xinhua further accused people who had been trained by the group of getting involved in sensitive social issues to “deliberately exacerbate conflicts that were not serious in the first place and to incite masses to confront the government and to create mass incidents”.