Campaign for imprisoned Chinese Buddhist leader

Chinese Buddhist leader Wu Zeheng (also known as Shi Xingwu) and approximately 18 of his followers remain in detention after police searched residences at Yinshi Yayuan complex in Zhuhai City, Guangdong Province, on 29 July, according to Wu’s followers, reports Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Although Mr. Wu has largely refrained from advocating political change since his release in 2010, his disciples say the Chinese government has taken notice of his growing popularity, says the New York Times. In the last four years, Mr. Wu had drawn thousands of followers within China and across the world, largely through videos and writings he and his aides post online. Although the authorities have blocked his blog and microblog platforms in China, Huazang says that events organized by the group in recent years have drawn more than 8,400 participants worldwide.

It was not immediately clear what prompted the raid on the group. The government has not issued any public statements about Huazang Dharma, and those questioned by the police say the authorities did not suggest they thought the group was an illicit cult.

Jared Genser, Managing Director of Perseus Strategies in Washington DC, has urged action on Wu’s behalf, saying “In the first 24 hours of his detention Wu was kept awake for 16 hours, denied all food and water, and consecutively questioned by four different groups of police officers. He is currently being held in a small cell with no bed or bedding materials, forced to sleep on a hard floor. Further details of his current situation is not known. He and some 20 others remain imprisoned under formal investigation. Even more worrying, since his initial arrest, the provincial state-run Legal Times published an article accusing Wu and his followers of ‘using cultic activities to undermine law enforcement, to defraud, to commit sexual assaults, and to engage in other criminal activities.'”

Mr Genser has made a formal submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.