BEIJING - China has detained a prominent human rights lawyer on a charge of "causing a disturbance", two lawyers said on Tuesday, after he attended a weekend meeting that urged a probe of the bloody suppression of pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Pu Zhiqiang, a leading free-speech lawyer, has represented many well-known dissidents, including artist Ai Weiwei and activists of the "New Citizens' Movement", a group that has urged Chinese leaders to disclose their assets.
The move to formally detain Pu underscores the sensitivity of Chinese leaders to any form of criticism ahead of the 25th anniversary of China's crackdown on the demonstrations around Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4, 1989.
"Pu is very influential and has a following in the mainstream audience," said Maya Wang, a China researcher for New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch.
"The detention, as in previous years' house arrest, is meant to, first, put him out of action during this period, but more importantly, it might be a message to deter any others from commemorating the massacre during this important anniversary."
At least five dissidents and professors have disappeared since attending the meeting, held to commemorate the 1989 crackdown as well as "explore its implications and consequences and call for an investigation into the truth of June 4," said Hua Ze, a human rights activist.
In a statement, Beijing police said they had "criminally detained" Pu on a charge of "causing a disturbance" and were holding him at the Beijing No.1 Detention Centre.
Pu's colleague Xia Lin, and a human rights lawyer, Zhang Sizhi, confirmed the detention, citing a member of Pu's family. Zhang said he could be representing Pu.