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Teen son of persecuted Chinese lawyer barred from travel

BEIJING (AP) — The 16-year-old son of a Chinese couple targeted by authorities in a crackdown on rights lawyers has been barred from traveling to Australia to attend high school and placed under police surveillance, a family friend said Saturday.

Bao Mengmeng, son of prominent rights lawyer Wang Yu, was told by police not to seek legal help or inquire about the whereabouts of his parents, who are believed to be detained by authorities amid the crackdown, said Chen Jiangang, also a rights attorney.

Chinese authorities routinely put pressure on activists by targeting their family members, friends and work associates.

They muzzle relatives of activists through coercive methods to ensure that they won’t speak up on behalf of their loved ones and that the official narratives prevail. In one high-profile example, Liu Xia, wife of the 2010 Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, has been under house arrest since her husband won the award.

In the latest crackdown on civil activism in China, authorities have detained dozens of rights lawyers and social activists, including Wang, who disappeared July 9, hours after she dropped her son and husband off at an airport. Dozens more have been summoned by police, admonished, and warned not to speak or take action on behalf of the detainees.

The teenager, who also disappeared July 9, was released two days later, but the father is still missing. The two were planning to travel to Australia, where Bao was expected to attend high school, but were intercepted by police at the airport.

Calls to police in the northern city of Tianjin, where Bao is under surveillance, were not answered Saturday.

Chen said that Bao’s relatives are fearful Bao is not allowed to answer phone calls, but that he managed to speak to the teenager on both Friday and Saturday.

He said police took away Bao’s passport and the key to the apartment where he lives with his parents. Bao also has been asked to cut off contact with lawyers and to change his cellphone number, Chen said.

Wang has represented people involved in politically sensitive cases. Most recently, she was the legal counsel for Li Tingting, a young women’s rights activist jailed over a planned event against sexual harassment.

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