Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu have detained a prominent Maoist editor on suspicion of "subversion of state power," his former employer said.
Chai Xiaoming, a former editor at the Maoist website Red Reference, was detained on March 21 by state security police in Nanjing, where he is being held under "residential surveillance at a designated location."
Red Reference said in a statement on Sunday that Chai had been involved in the publication of a March 20 article suggesting that China could take "a different path to modernization."
"This article was written by Jin Canrong, former lecturer in international relations at Renmin University, based on a recent lecture he gave at the university of Hong Kong," the website said in a statement that was later deleted, but reposted by the U.S.-based China Digital Times.
"The video of the lecture has been taken down, but the text is still there," it said, posting a copy of Chai's detention notice. "He stopped sending updates to his friends on [social media app] WeChat three days ago, and his phone has been cut off since then."
"The Red Reference editorial team are very concerned about the current situation of this former colleague," the website said. "We also hope that his elderly parents will not be blamed by the relevant authorities for releasing this information."
Calls to the Nanjing municipal police department rang unanswered during office hours on Monday.
A source close to the family surnamed Chen said Chai is a prominent writer on the left of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's political spectrum, and a former lecturer on Marxism at Peking University, which reports directly to the highest levels of the Chinese leadership.
'A total believer'
The 43-year-old Chai hails from Shanghai, and spent time as a student in the U.K., returning to China after obtaining a PhD. He resigned from his post at Peking University last year to start up a culture and media company in Nanjing, Chen said.
"He is a Marxist, a total believer," Chen said. "It's pretty interesting that a Marxist has been detained for subversion of state power in a socialist country founded on Marxism."
Chen said Chai had taken up his Peking University teaching post and his editorial job at Red Reference soon after returning from the U.K. in 2014.
"He resigned his Beijing job at the beginning of 2018 to go to Nanjing and become a full-time editor," he said. "I'm not sure who exactly was behind this company."
A fellow Maoist who gave his surname Song said only that Chai is "a self-confessed Trotskyist."
Scholar Tan Song said the government is cracking down on any individuals or groups that have the potential to initiate organized action, and that Chai's detention comes amid a nationwide operation targeting Marxism study groups and labor activism on elite university campuses.
"It's pretty easy to understand," Tan said. "The Peking University Marxism Society was totally authentic in supporting a workers' movement in Shenzhen, under the banner of Marxism."
"It means that, regardless of whether you're left-wing, the government will crack down pretty quickly on you if you organize," he said.
Tan said the same thing happened during the political turmoil of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
"They also arrested groups that were set up specially for the study of Das Kapital," he said, referring to the seminal work by Karl Marx.
Widening crackdown on labor movements
Chai's detention comes amid an ever-widening crackdown on grassroots labor movements in Chinese factories.
Activists in Hong Kong have called for the release of more than 30 former workers at the Jasic Technology factory in neighboring Guangdong province and members of the Jasic Workers' Solidarity Group (JWSG), who were supporting them.
At least 44 labor activists, students, and recent graduates of China's top universities have been "disappeared" or criminally detained since the nationwide crackdown on the Jasic labor movement, which started in July and continued with further waves of arrests and detentions in August, September, November, and January, the JWSG reported on its Github page.
Among the "disappeared" are Sun Yat-sen University graduate and Jasic movement spokeswoman Shen Mengyu and Peking University #MeToo campaigner Yue Xin.
However, former Red Reference editor Shang Kai -- who was supporting the Jasic campaign -- was released on "bail" under conditions preventing him from appearing in public, RFA has learned.
Reported by Wong Siu-san and Lau Siu-fung for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.