Charge against detained Chinese rights lawyer upgraded to subversion

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The wife of detained Chinese rights lawyer Yu Wensheng said on Tuesday her husband had been charged with “inciting subversion of state power” and that police had summonsed her after she gave interviews to overseas media.

Yu, who has been an outspoken critic of a Chinese government crackdown on his fellow rights lawyers and activists, was taken by authorities from outside his home in Beijing on January 19 soon after he was stripped of his legal licence.

Yu’s wife, Xu Yan, said police informed her on Saturday that her husband was being charged with “inciting subversion of state power” rather than the original lighter charge of “obstructing a public service”.

Lawyer of Chinese human rights attorney Yu Wensheng calls detention ‘absurd’

For the last two days, police in Xuzhou in southeastern Jiangsu province have repeatedly called to ask her to go to the police station to speak to them about her husband’s crimes, she said.

The police told her that the reason she was wanted was because she had given interviews to overseas media, she said.

A man who answered the phone at the Xuzhou public security bureau said he was unaware of the case.

It is unclear why Yu is being held in Xuzhou. It is not uncommon for sensitive rights cases to be transferred to different jurisdictions.

Beijing launched a sweeping wave of detentions and arrest of rights lawyers and activists, which has come to be known as the “709” incident after the date July 9, 2015, when the crackdown began in earnest.

China detains human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng after his call for reform, sources say

In response, the families and friends of the rights lawyers and activists have often taken up their loved one’s cause in the wake of their detention, sometimes becoming high-profile activists in their own right.

An edited video of Yu’s detention showing him punching and swearing at the police officers was posed on YouTube on January 22, and has since been shared repeatedly on Twitter.

Xu said the video was an attempt to smear her husband.

The day before Yu was detained he had circulated a call for reform to China’s state constitution, which said China should delete a preamble that grants the ruling Communist Party primacy in leadership.

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