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China Expands Dissent Crackdown With Venture Capitalist’s Arrest

Venture capitalist Wang Gongquan in Beijing on July 31, 2013. Photographer: Simon Denyer/The Washington Post
Venture capitalist Wang Gongquan in Beijing on July 31, 2013. Photographer: Simon Denyer/The Washington Post

Oct. 22 (Bloomberg) -- China broadened its crackdown on dissent with the arrest of venture capitalist Wang Gongquan on charges of assembling a crowd to disturb public order.

The news captured the attention of Web users across the country. The posting on Wang’s arrest by his lawyer, Chen Youxi, was the 15th most-shared post on Sina Corp.’s Weibo microblogging website as of 9:22 a.m., according to the website. The message had been re-sent more than 11,000 times.

Wang was arrested Oct. 20 on the charges, Chen said by phone yesterday, declining to give more details. Wang was being held in Beijing, Chen said Sept. 18.

China is tightening controls on dissent, particularly over the Internet, targeting users of Twitter-like microblogs, before the Communist Party’s plenum in November where President Xi Jinping is expected to push for a series of economic reforms to shore up his influence. Even as government officials sign up for microblog accounts and state media praise online whistle-blowers, authorities have exerted more control over Web discourse.

After gaining public attention in May 2011 for announcing online he was leaving his wife for his mistress, Wang became more outspoken, signing a letter in July calling for the release of rights activist Xu Zhiyong. Xu had spearheaded a movement that called for citizens’ rights.

“It’s a quite systematic crackdown on individuals involved in that movement that reflects the authorities’ nervousness,” said Maya Wang, Hong Kong-based Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, referring to Xu’s so-called New Citizens’ Movement. “The government is sending a signal that collective action is not tolerated anymore.”

Jail Threat

Last month the country’s Supreme Court said people who post defamatory comments online could face as much as three years in prison. Five men in central Hunan province were arrested for allegedly spreading false information online in order to blackmail government officials, the official Xinhua News Agency said today. Liu Hu, a journalist who posted allegations of wrongdoing by government officials on the Internet, was arrested last month on a charge of defamation, his lawyer said.

This month Dong Rubin, a blogger in the southwest city of Kunming who had been vocal online about a planned petrochemical plant outside the city, was arrested on charges of falsely declaring capital in his company, illegal business operations and “creating disturbances,” Xinhua said Oct. 16.

Wang founded CDH Venture, the venture-capital unit of CDH Investments, in 2005, according to the parent company’s website. Prior to that he was a general partner at IDG Technology Venture Investment, and previously one of the founders of Vantone Industry Group.

‘Healthy Criticism’

In August, Wang appeared on the front-cover of the Southern People Weekly magazine as part of a group of entrepreneurs who “want to talk about national affairs.”

“I don’t want to create a revolution, I don’t want China to break out into revolution,” he told the magazine. “I’m just doing what a citizen should do, adding the voice of healthy criticism toward the benign change of this country.”

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Henry Sanderson in Beijing at hsanderson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net

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