US lawmakers, civil society voice concern for Chinese activist dragged off telephone interview

Academic activist Sun Wenguang is missing after on-air arrest on August 1 by Chinese authorities

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Sun Wenguang.

Sun Wenguang. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Two U.S. lawmakers as well as numerous civil society groups have condemned China and called for the immediate release of Chinese academic Sun Wenguang (孫文廣), after he was dragged off the telephone by Chinese police during an interview with U.S.-funded Voice of America (VOA) on August 1.

The whereabouts of Sun is currently unknown, leading to a chorus of concern and condemnation from U.S. lawmakers and civil society groups, both inside and outside China.

Sun was arrested in his home in Jinan City (濟南), Shandong province on August 1, while on-air as an interviewee of VOA. Sun has a long history of arrests and police harassment leading all the way back to the Mao Zedong (毛澤東) era. He has not been seen since August 1, and concern is mounting.

NGO Reporters without Borders (RSF) condemned Sun's arrest, demanding his release in a statement.

Patrick Poon, Researcher at Amnesty International in Hong Kong in a statement that Sun's arrest was "shocking and outrageous," adding "It's another example of how the Chinese authorities are determined to silence dissidents."

U.S. Congressman Chris Smith, who represents New Jersey's 4th district said the incident was "an apparent attempt to chill an open exchange of ideas and opinions" and he urged for Sun to be released immediately or engaging in what should be his right to free speech," reported VOA.

U.S. Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio said "Chinese authorities are increasingly aggressive and brazen in their efforts to stifle free speech and other basic rights. We are deeply concerned for Professor Wenguang Sun's safety and well-being, and urge his immediate and unconditional release," in a statement to VOA.

Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tweeted that Sun's disappearance was a "grave concern," addition that “no one should live in fear of expressing opinions or sharing ideas.”

Human Rights Watch China Director, Sophie Richardson said to VOA that "it is bad enough the government is persecuting him at all. It is worse still for them to do so as a result of surveilling his communications with media outside of the country, to break through his apartment to take him away while being interviewed live."