BEIJING — A Chinese scholar and rights advocate who founded an influential non-governmental think tank has been detained on the criminal charge of provoking troubles, his lawyer said Sunday.
Guo Yushan is the latest of dozens of people who have been detained at a time when Hong Kong protesters are demanding universal suffrage in elections for the top official of the semiautonomous territory.
Earlier this month, Beijing detained the dissident poet Wang Zang and seven other people ahead of a poetry reading planned in Beijing to support the Hong Kong protesters.
At least 37 people in mainland China have been held for supporting the protesters, including posting pictures and messages online showing solidarity and planning to travel to Hong Kong to join them, according to human rights group Amnesty International. Another 60 have been called in by police for questioning.
Most have been detained on the suspicion of provoking troubles — a vague charge that critics say has been increasingly used to suppress dissidents, activists and outspoken critics of the government as Beijing tries to avoid speech or state subversion charges that are more likely to draw international condemnation.
It is unclear if Guo's detention is directly related to the Hong Kong protests, as Guo was not known to have made any public comments in support of the pro-democracy movement.
His lawyer Li Jin said she was yet to meet with Guo at a Beijing detention center and that it wasn't immediately clear on what basis police charged Guo.
Guo co-founded the Transition Institute to research China's social and economic issues, but Beijing's authorities, citing lack of proper registration, shut down the think tank last year.
In 2012, Guo was instrumental in helping the blind activist Chen Guangcheng travel to Beijing after Chen escaped from house arrest in an eastern Chinese village.
While in Beijing, Chen sought shelter in the U.S. Embassy, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the U.S. secretary of state, managed to negotiate for him to go to the United States to study law.