China: police detain environmental activist

The Chinese environmental activist who documented the impact of industrial pollution on one of China's biggest freshwater lakes has been detained by police, his wife and police authority said Monday.

Dozens of police officers in eastern China's Yixing city stormed Wu Lihong's house in the middle of the night on April 13, searched the apartment and took him away, said his wife Xu Jiehua. Yixing police gave Xu a detention order the next day that said Wu was being investigated for extortion and blackmail.

"I think my husband was framed and has been wrongly accused," Xu said. "All along police here have been harassing my husband and asking him to not do his investigation work and to mind his own business."

For more than 15 years, Wu has been collecting water samples from Lake Tai in Jiangsu province and submitting reports on its worsening condition to the central government. China's legislature named him one of the country's top ten environmentalists in 2005.

Xu said she wasn't sure exactly why her husband was being targeted.

Huang Hongguang, a deputy director of the Yixing Public Security Bureau, called it "an ordinary criminal case." Because it is still under investigation, he could not give details, he said.

Local Chinese authorities sometimes intimidate or jail activists who try to bring official corruption or negligence to the attention of the central government, fearing they will lose profits or their jobs.

Last year, Wu told Hong Kong's South China Morning Post that chemical factories and local government officials were to blame for the worsening pollution on Lake Tai.

"I want them to admit their responsibility so we will have clean drinking water again," he was quoted as saying.

Tian Kun of Beijing's Taifu Law Firm said he agreed to take Wu's case free of charge because he was impressed by his dedication to public service. He said he was trying to get his client released on bail.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova