BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have detained an activist agitating for officials to disclose their assets on subversion charges, her lawyer said on Wednesday, underscoring the limits of an anti-corruption push by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Xi, who became Communist Party chief in November and president in March, has called for a crackdown on graft, warning, as many have before him, that the problem is so severe it could threaten the party’s survival.
But China has detained at least 10 activists who have led a campaign for officials to publicly disclose their wealth - the first coordinated crackdown by the new government on activists, according to Maya Wang, a researcher with the Asia division at Human Rights Watch.
The detention of Liu Ping, 48, makes her the first person to be singled out by the government for pressuring officials on their wealth.
Police from Xinyu, in the southern province of Jiangxi, detained Liu for “inciting subversion of state power”, her lawyer, Zheng Jianwei, told Reuters, by telephone. The charge is often leveled against critics of the party.
Police could not be reached for comment.
Liu, who has also advocated on women’s rights issues, last year started demanding that officials disclose their assets, Zheng said. She took her campaign to the internet and to fellow Chinese.
Zheng said he did not know the exact reason for Liu’s detention, but added that he had warned her “to be aware of her actions” six months ago.
“I felt that her profile was too high, I thought she should quieten her heart and just carry out very basic activities for citizens’ rights and the law,” Zheng said. “But Liu Ping is a person who can’t be idle.”
Xi’s ascendancy in a once-in-a-decade generational leadership transition had given many Chinese hope for political reform, spurring citizens to push officials to disclose their wealth in several movements throughout the country.
Xu Zhiyong, the founder of one such movement, told Reuters he was being held under house arrest and that “it could be due to his campaign to push for asset disclosure”.
Wang of Human Rights Watch said the detentions of the anti-corruption activists appeared to be part of a coordinated campaign to halt public calls for fighting corruption.
“How can calling for anti-graft measures be a crime?” Wang said. “Liu Ping’s detention makes Xi Jinping’s stated policy goal to fight graft seem like tiresome, broken rhetoric.”
Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Nick Macfie