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Hong Kong University researcher detained in China

Friend says Fang Ran is passionate about social issues and 'not afraid of speaking out whenever he sees some injustice'

AFP, Hong Kong

AFP, Hong Kong

Published: September 02, 2021 02:16 AM GMT

Updated: September 02, 2021 02:24 AM GMT

Hong Kong University researcher detained in China

A People's Republic of China flag waves in the wind in Hong Kong. (Photo: AFP)

A researcher from the University of Hong Kong has been detained by police in mainland China, where he was studying the politically thorny issue of workers' rights.

Beijing has repeatedly cracked down on grassroots protests and labor NGOs in recent years, with authorities seeking to control social movements they view as a potential challenge to the state.

Fang Ran, a sociology PhD student researching labor movements in China, has not been seen for five days, his friends told AFP on Sept. 1.

A message circulating on social media, apparently from his father, said Fang was detained by police in the city of Nanning in the Guangxi region on Aug. 26.

"I am extremely shocked at this," wrote Fang's father, describing his son as a loyal member of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

"In my view, Fang Ran is definitely not a criminal who seeks to harm the party but an ambitious young person who is helpful to the party's cause."

Numerous student labor activists were detained in 2018 and 2019 as part of a nationwide crackdown on campus Marxist groups

Hong Kong University said in a statement that it is "aware of the matter and actively looking into it."

"We will provide assistance to Mr. Fang and his family where appropriate," a university spokesperson told AFP.

Fang's father wrote that the 26-year-old had been put into a form of solitary secret detention known as "residential surveillance at a designated location," which is often used against dissidents.

Friends say that Fang, a Chinese national, had been researching labor conditions in Chinese factories in the southern manufacturing hub of Shenzhen, where he has lived for the past six months.

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One of his friends told AFP that Fang was passionate about social issues and was "not afraid of speaking out whenever he sees some injustice".

Numerous student labor activists were detained in 2018 and 2019 as part of a nationwide crackdown on campus Marxist groups, many of whom helped organize factory worker unions in southern China. Some remain missing.

Five high-profile labor activists were released last year after being arrested in Shenzhen in a separate 2019 crackdown, Hong Kong-based labor rights NGO China Labour Bulletin said.

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