Lu Xi, Wong Siu-san and Sing Man | Radio Free Asia

Authorities in the Chinese capital have detained the brother of a prominent legal scholar after he posted an Islamic State video to social media in protest at a recent visit to Beijing by the Taliban.

He Weitong, younger brother of Peking University law professor HeWeifang, is being held under criminal detention in Beijing on suspicion of “disseminating extremist, terrorist content,” his friends said.

He was detained after posting a 10-second clip of Islamic State militants executing unarmed civilians on Sept. 12, a friend who gave only his surname Zhang told RFA.

“He was taken into criminal detention on Sept. 30,” Zhang said. “They are holding him on suspicion of disseminating terrorism and possessing terrorist content.”

He Weifang only commented briefly when contacted by RFA on Monday.

“There are a lot of media reports saying, wrongly, that he was detained because of his association with me, but that’s not what’s happening at all,” he said, adding that the police had likely “made a mistake.”

“I didn’t see anything in his [online] comments that would justify treating him in this way,” he said, adding that his own WeChat had been permanently shut down by the authorities ahead of the 70th anniversary National Day celebrations on Oct. 1.

Zhang said He Weitong, who works in legal publishing, is very familiar with Chinese law, and couldn’t be further from supporting terrorism.

Liberal faction now targeted

U.S.-based rights activist Wang Qingying said He Weitong’s detention could be a way for the ruling Chinese Communist Party to retaliate against He Weifang for his sometimes outspoken criticism of President Xi Jinping, however.

“I think they may be trying to use this to teach He Weifang a lesson and get him to shut up,” Wang told RFA, adding that He Weifang is — ideologically speaking — on the fringe of the Communist Party faithful.

“As a liberal intellectual, He Weifang is part of the reformist faction who acknowledges the legitimacy of the Communist Party and recognizes its laws,” Wang said. “But they have arrested all the dissidents and the religious figures now, so now it’s the turn of the liberal faction.”

He drew parallels with the ever-shifting factional lines during the political turmoil of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

“This is what totalitarian politics is like,” Wang said. “They have to create enough fear … so as to prop up the authority of the supreme leader.”

Calls to the Dongcheng district police department in Beijing rang not answered during office hours on Monday.

Weitong’s detention comes after the authorities detained dozens of people across China for complaining about the use of taxpayers’ money to finance a lavish military parade and official celebrations on Oct. 1, when the ruling party marked its 70th anniversary in power.

Social media users have been detained in Nanchong in the southwestern province of Sichuan, Anshan in northwestern Liaoning, Rizhao in the eastern province of Shandong and Suqian in the eastern province of Jiangsu for making critical comments relating to the Oct. 1 celebrations, RFA has learned.

He Weifang has repeatedly been targeted by government internet censors, who have shut down his social media accounts several times in recent years, especially ahead of politically sensitive meetings and anniversaries.

His brother’s detention comes amid a nationwide crackdown on any form of dissenting opinion under President Xi Jinping, who is currently serving an indefinite term in office following constitutional changes passed by the National People’s Congress in 2018.

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