Chinese farmer who praised lawyers amid crackdown arrested

BEIJING (AP) — A prominent Chinese pig farmer who has publicly praised the work of lawyers who help the public amid a crackdown on legal activists by President Xi Jinping’s government was subjected this week to unspecified “coercive measures,” according to police, a term that usually means detention.

Sun Dawu, chairman of Hebei Dawu Agriculture Group, is among suspects accused of “provoking quarrels and disrupting production,” the police department of Baoding, southwest of Beijing, said on its social media account. It gave no details.

A Baoding police employee who would give only her surname, Du, declined to give more information. “Coercive measures” can include detention, house arrest or release on bail with restrictions on movement.

In August, police clashed with Dawu Group personnel who were trying to stop employees of a state-owned farm from demolishing one of the company’s buildings.

More than 20 people were injured, Sun said on his social media account. A photo there showed police with helmets and riot shields pushing a crowd. Others showed what they said were bruises and scrapes suffered by members of the public.

On Tuesday night, about 300 police officers went to Dawu Group’s headquarters and took away Sun Dawu and other employees, according to a woman who answered the phone at the company and refused to give her name.

“They said it was because of their making trouble and disrupting production, but we have no idea what the cause was,” the woman said. “Some police officers left, but some still stay in the company.”

Sun became nationally known in 2003 when he was charged with “illegal fundraising” after he solicited investment for his business from friends and neighbors.

That case triggered an outpouring of public support for Sun at a time when entrepreneurs who generate most of China’s new jobs and wealth were shut out of the state-run financial system. He was convicted but given a suspended sentence. His lawyer said the public outcry probably was the reason for the light penalty.

Since then, Sun has praised the work of lawyers who help the public at a time when prominent legal figures have been imprisoned and harassed by Xi’s government. Sun’s lawyer in the 2003 case, Xu Zhiyong, disappeared in February and fellow activists say he was arrested and charged with subversion.

“Lawyers can let victims see a little light, maintain a bit of faith in the law and kindle hope for living,” Sun said on his social media account in May.

In a commentary published following the 2015 arrest of lawyers, Sun wrote, “What problem does this reflect? I think this is a contradiction between ‘maintenance of stability’ and ‘maintenance of rights.’”

During an outbreak of African swine fever last year, Sun embarrassed Chinese authorities when he posted photos of dead pigs from his herds online. He complained regulators failed to report the disease had reached Hebei, which surrounds Beijing, the capital.

Two days later, the Agriculture Ministry confirmed the disease had been found in Hebei.

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