More than 20 people have been detained and others are missing in what has been called the most severe crackdown on Chinese dissidents and activists in over a decade.
As the Guardian is reporting, at least 23 people have been detained, mostly in relation to charges of incitement to subversion or creating a disturbance following anonymous calls for a "Jasmine Revolution." In addition, three others have been formally arrested; and a dozen people are missing.
Several well-known Chinese figures, including law professor Teng Biao and human rights lawyers Tang Jitian and Jiang Tianyong, all disappeared around Feb. 16-19, Reuters reports. Another lawyer, Liu Shihui, was savagely beaten before being taken into custody, according to the Wall Street Journal.
"I think the crackdown is partly to find out who is behind it," Wang Songlian of the Chinese Human Rights Defenders network, which has been monitoring the detentions, tells the Guardian. "But part of it is an opportunity to retaliate against certain people ... The terror of this current crackdown is that it is very difficult to know whether you are going to be next. That in itself is very unsettling for activists."
Sources say the arrests add to evidence that the ruling Communist Party is determined to snuff out any risks of challenges to its power in the wake of the ongoing Arab uprising. With President Hu Jintao set to retire in 2012, leadership succession is imminent.
Of course, this is of little comfort to friends and family of those detained. "I received the notice yesterday afternoon, but I haven't had any other news about him, haven't been allowed to see him," Wang Xiaoyan, wife of Chen Wei, a dogged critic of China's one-party system who was arrested Wednesday on charges of "inciting subversion of state power," is quoted by Reuters as saying.