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Published: Saturday May 17, 2014 MYT 2:50:03 PM
Updated: Saturday May 17, 2014 MYT 2:51:08 PM

China detains two rights lawyers in widening crackdown on activists

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police detained two prominent human rights lawyers this week, the latest arrests in a growing crackdown on dissent that has targeted rights activists and journalists.

Tang Jingling, a prominent Guangzhou-based lawyer known for his work in cases involving land grabs, counterfeit vaccinations and petitioners protesting corruption, was arrested on Friday afternoon, his lawyer Liu Zhengqing said.

Tang was accused of "starting quarrels and provoking disputes," Liu said on Friday evening. Police had searched Tang's home and taken away computers, cell phones and other electronics, according to a police document Liu showed Reuters.

Liu said neither he or relatives had been able to meet with Tang.

Another rights lawyer, Liu Shihui, was taken into custody during the past week and is being held at a detention centre in Shanghai, said Liu Zhengqing, who is familiar with the case.

Liu was giving advice to a group of petitioners when police detained him, Liu Zhengqing said.

Tang and Liu are the latest of several lawyers and activists to be detained ahead of the anniversary of the June 4, 1989, crackdown on protesters at Tiananmen Square.

Several rights activists were detained earlier this month, including lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, after they attended a small private gathering commemorating one of the events leading up to the June 4 crackdown.

Pu, a leading free-speech lawyer, represented many well-known dissidents including artist Ai Weiwei and activists from the "New Citizens' Movement," a group that urged Chinese leaders to disclose their wealth.

Gao Yu, a journalist and activist known for her writing on the Tiananmen Square, was detained earlier this month and is accused by authorities of providing state secrets to foreign contacts.

(Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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