Chinese man detained for helping son of imprisoned human rights lawyer

After having gone missing for seven months, a Chinese activist has been confirmed to be held under criminal detention by authorities, apparently for "smuggling" persons outside China.

Xing Qingxian, together with Tang Zhishun, helped 16-year-old Bao Zhuoxuan cross the border into Myanmar so the boy can go to the U.S. to study. The three reportedly traveled under the guise of tourists because Bao was issued a travel ban when his parents were arrested last year, according to Radio Free Asia.

A policeman leads inmates as they walk along a road with their wrists tied together to a rope at Emei Mountain region, Sichuan province, September 26, 2012. Police transported 594 inmates out of the mountainous area into a new prison 50 km (31 miles) away, local media reported. | REUTERS/Stringer

Bao is the son of human rights lawyers Wang Yu and Bao Longlun. On July 9, 2015, the couple was arrested as part of a government crackdown targeting human rights lawyers, activists and their families.

Xing and Tang were able to get Bao successfully to Myanmar's border town of Mongla. They stayed at Huadu Guest House. However, on Oct. 6, 2015, about a dozen men carrying Burmese police IDs came to the hotel and took all three men.

Friends of Xing and Tang inquired from local authorites about the three, but the authorities said they did not detain anyone. They then inquired from authorities in Myanmar, but were surprised to be told the police there had no information about Xing, Tang and Bao, a report said.

It was only earlier this month that Xing's family was notified that he is being criminally detained for being suspected of "organizing smuggling of persons across a national boundary."

"Two-hundred-and-twenty-six days after Tang Zhishun and Xing Qingxian were detained by Chinese police in Myanmar, I have finally received notification of Xing's criminal detention," Xing's wife He Juan said in a tweet.

The notification was a registered letter addressed to the Chinese Communist Party in He's village and was signed by Tianjin police. The letter was received by her mother.

"I think that we had to wait far too long," He said. "The rule is that the family should be notified within 24 hours, and we didn't get this for 226 days." He is now staying in the U.S. where she fled after her husband disappeared.

Although there was no confirmation that Tang is also held in detention, his lawyer assumes he is detained in the same place where Xing is. He fears the two men will be given "tough sentences" because they are being accused of smuggling persons across the border, which applies to human traffickers.

Tang's wife Gao Shen also fled to the U.S. with their daughter after he disappeared. She expressed concern that her husband is being tortured.

"We are terribly afraid that the Chinese police may be torturing Tang Zhishun and Xing Qingxian, destroying them in order to get a forced confession," Gao said.