Wang Gongquan, a 52-year-old venture capitalist, was taken into custody at noon by around 20 policemen, according to Teng Biao, a Beijing-based rights activist and lawyer.
Police claimed Mr Wang was “suspected of committing the crime of disturbing [public] order”, Prof. Teng said.
But friends say Mr Wang is the latest victim of an ongoing government crackdown and believe he is being punished for speaking out in defense of his friend, the jailed activist Xu Zhiyong.
Mr Wang is a prominent supporter of the New Citizens’ Movement, a loose coalition of petitioners, academics and lawyers that was founded last year and holds monthly dinners at which members discuss social change. Observers believe its supporters now number in the thousands.
In recent months the movement has come under increasing pressure from China’s sprawling domestic security apparatus. Dozens of members have been detained or interrogated and its founder, the legal expert Xu Zhiyong, was formally arrested in late August after over a month in detention.
Prof. Teng, who is another of the movement’s founders, claimed Mr Wang had been detained because of his involvement with the fledgling civil rights group.
“Of course Wang Gongquan (left) didn’t commit any crime under the current legal system,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
“Wang is a famous investor but he has [also] been supportive of civil society and human rights for many years.” “I don’t know what will happen to him [but] if Wang is not released within 24 hours it will be very worrying,” he added.
Chen Min, a respected liberal journalist who has been campaigning for Prof. Xu’s release, said that after 24 hours police could either release Mr Wang or place him under criminal detention. “I believe the latter is more likely,” he said.
“At present, it is white terror in Beijing,” added Mr Chen, who claimed he was “illegally abducted” by security agents in early August after criticizing the recent wave of detentions.
“The crackdown [on the New Citizens’ Movement] is one element of a [government] combo attack [on its opponents]. I really can’t predict what will come next.” Prof. Teng said the New Citizens’ Movement operated entirely within the limits of the Chinese constitution.
“We promote the equal right to education, we request [that] officials publicize their assets and we also promote citizens’ meals. Everything is within the law.” “The authorities have a different idea. They think it is illegal to organize people to defend their own rights,” he added.
Mr Wang’s detention came as China’s annual Human Rights forum kicked off in Beijing.