Beijing (AsiaNews) - The co-founder of an NGO operating in China was arrested on his way to Beijing International Airport and for the past 10 days has been held at an unknown location. The man is a Swedish citizen: the Foreign Ministry in Stockholm confirmed his detention, but so far has not been permitted to contact him. Peter Dahlin is 35 years old and was on his way to Thailand when he was detained: His Chinese girlfriend has also disappeared without trace.
The China Urgent Action Working Group - the name of the NGO - is an organization that provides assistance of various kinds to Chinese lawyers who work in rural areas of the country. It also supports groups working for human rights in China. The group's spokesman says the co-founder was arrested on charges of "endangering state security. Peter was arbitrarily arrested on the basis of false accusations. "
The communist authorities are preventing any contact with the activist, a clear violation of international law. Dahlin also suffers from Addison disease, a chronic disease of the endocrine system that requires daily care. It is not clear if the police are allowing the necessary treatment.
Dahlin's arrest was announced the day after the formal charging of seven other Chinese lawyers: they all disappeared in the summer of 2015 during a nationwide sweep against the lawyers, and now are under investigation for "subversion" .
In addition to lawyers, Beijing seems to have decided to clamp down further on NGOs. In September 2015 the Department for the organization of the Communist Party of China "strongly urged" non-governmental organizations, trade unions and foundations linked to civil society to "increase the number of Party members within their own decision-making bodies" .
The initiative, according to the official Xinhua news agency, "is necessary now more than ever. These institutions must be guided in the right direction through policy decisions made by the central government".
In addition, the new guidelines make some 1,000 NGOs operating in the country "illegal" for "endangering national unity, targeting state interests or violate public order." These are the same charges used against human rights activists and religious leaders whom the government wants to silence: they are so broad in scope anything could fall into these terms.