China applies to arrest prominent rights activist for defamation

By Sui-Lee Wee BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have formally applied to prosecutors to arrest and charge a prominent rights activist who had called for official accountability over what he said were miscarriages of justice, his lawyer said on Monday. Police want to charge Wu Gan, a burly 43-year-old online free speech advocate, with causing a disturbance, defamation and "inciting subversion of state power", his lawyer Yan Wenxin said. Prosecutors generally do not challenge or turn down police requests in sensitive political cases. Wu, better known by his online moniker "Super Vulgar Butcher", was detained in May. Earlier that month on Twitter, he had called for official accountability after a police officer shot and killed a civilian in northeastern Heilongjiang province. The incident stirred outrage among many Chinese over what they saw as abuse of power. Wu's case comes amid what rights groups say is the most severe crackdown on human rights in decades in China. The clamp down has drawn censure from the West and activists, who say the ruling Communist Party has grown increasingly intolerant of moderate dissent. Yan said the authorities had not disclosed any of their evidence against Wu. "He does not think any of his actions amount to guilt," he told Reuters by telephone. In an unusual article criticizing the activist, the People's Daily, the party's official newspaper, described Wu's move last month as "arrogant" and "malicious". "Wu Gan became more and more bold, and his actions more and more excessive," the paper said. "He even committed the illegal act of gravely injuring personal dignity, made malicious accusations, and flaunted himself as original 'performance art.'" Maya Wang, a researcher for New York-based group Human Rights Watch, said Wu's case was used as a warning against other rights activists. The Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the case at a regular briefing on Monday, saying it was not a diplomatic issue. Yan said he did not know when the formal request for arrest was made, but prosecutors in the southern city of Xiamen notified him on Saturday. Prosecutors in Xiamen could not be immediately reached for comment. (Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard and Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Ryan Woo)