Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to tackle corruption in the country’s vast communist power structure, yet in his seven months in power, Chinese authorities have cracked down on activists who fight for honest government.
More than 150 activists are estimated to have been arrested since the summer, crushing hopes that Mr. Xi would root out corruption.
“Xi Jinping crushed expectations so fast. The situation is very worrisome.”
On Tuesday, the wife and daughter of Yang Maodong, a prominent human rights and anti-corruption activist better known by his pen name, Guo Feixiong, told members of Congress that Chinese officials have prevented them from contacting him since his arrest Aug. 8, and they worry that he is being tortured in custody.
“Because he was tortured the last time he was arrested, this time the authorities have repeatedly denied legal representatives and family access to him, so we have every reason to believe he has been tortured severely or has engaged in a hunger strike,” said Zhang Qing, Mr. Guo’s wife.
Human rights activists also fear for his safety.
“Torture is endemic in custody in China and the fact that his lawyers have had so much trouble getting to see him, we are extremely worried about his whereabouts and well-being,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.
China’s new leadership made clear in the spring that it would not tolerate any public gatherings of the kind organized by the New Citizens' Movement, a grass-roots campaign for greater government transparency and an end to corruption.
Chinese authorities have arrested at least 18 people affiliated with the New Citizens' Movement, according to Human Rights Watch.
“These detentions signify Chinese citizens’ growing resolve and Beijing’s growing fears,” said Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, global health, global human rights and international organizations.
A Chinese Embassy spokesman in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Guo was arrested Aug. 8 in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou on the charge of disrupting order in a public space. His association with the New Citizens' Movement is seen as the likely reason for his arrest.
“Guo’s detention appears to be reprisal for his support of government transparency and calls for accountability,” Mr. Smith said. “We are not only calling on Beijing to release this brave and heroic individual , we are also calling on the Obama administration to raise his case individually.”