China arrests blogger Ran Yunfei

Prominent writer detained by police as Chinese authorities continue crackdown on dissent
Chinese authorities have arrested more than 100 activists since late February, according to Amnesty International. Photograph: Dan Chung for the Guardian Chinese police have arrested prominent writer Ran Yunfei for challenging the ruling Communist party, according to people close to the blogger.

Ran, a writer and magazine editor from south-west Sichuan province who had been detained without charge for more than a month, was formally arrested on the charge of inciting subversion of state power, Wang Yi, a Christian activist in Sichuan and a friend of Ran said.

Ran, 46, was detained by police in Chengdu on 20 February as unrest across the Middle East generated online calls for similar "jasmine revolution" protests in China.

The charge of inciting subversion was also used to jail Liu Xiaobo, the dissident who won the Nobel peace prize, which infuriated Beijing.

"Basically, it's the crime of expressing your opinions," said Wang, formerly a legal scholar. "In this case, too, the prosecutors will probably use essays that Ran has published on the internet."

Nobel laureate Liu has been serving an 11-year sentence since 2009 for co-writing the Charter 08 manifesto, which calls for sweeping political reform and is seen as one of the boldest challenges to Communist rule in recent years.

The Chinese authorities are seeking to stifle any potential challenge to their power before a party leadership handover in late 2012.

Wang said Ran's wife received the arrest notice on Monday, although it was dated last Friday, the day a court sentenced another leading dissident in Sichuan, Liu Xianbin (who is not related to Liu Xiaobo), to 10 years in prison for urging democratic reform.

Rights campaigners said that long sentence could augur tough punishment for other detained activists.
The arrest was confirmed by another person close to Ran, who asked not to be named out of fear of retribution for speaking to foreign reporters.

Police also searched Ran's home in February and confiscated his computer, according to Reporters Without Borders. Ran's formal arrest could culminate in a trial and a maximum prison sentence of five years.

The authorities have detained dozens of lawyers, bloggers and dissidents in what rights groups say is China's harshest crackdown on dissent in recent years.

More than 100 activists, many of them active on Twitter and blogging sites, have been detained, subjected to monitoring and intimidation by the security forces or have gone missing since late February, particularly after the online calls for "jasmine" gatherings, according to Amnesty International.

Prosecutors could order further investigations of Ran and it could be up to four months or more before his fate becomes clear, Wang said. He and others familiar with Ran said they did not know specifically what triggered the arrest.

Ran was a signatory of Charter 08.

"The government on the one hand prevents freedom of the press and disallows the free flow of information, and on the other hand ... conceals the truth," Ran wrote on his Twitter account on 14 February. "It's no wonder that rumours are prevalent under these circumstances."

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