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THe BBC takes a look at a few activists, some of whom have been active helping religious minorities, being detained in China

12/07/2010 China (BBC) – A small group of activists continue to call for political and legal reforms in China, despite the tight control of the Communist Party.

The BBC profiles some of the leading activists who, despite the consequences, have chosen to speak out.

LIU XIAOBO: Activist, in jail
 Liu Xiaobo, 54, was a key leader in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

Last year he received an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion” after drafting Charter 08 – which called for multi-party democracy and respect for human rights in China.

Announcing the Nobel Peace Prize in October, the Nobel committee described Mr Liu as “the foremost symbol” of the human rights struggle in China.

His wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest since the award was announced, and friends and supporters have been prevented from leaving China.

GAO ZHISHENG: Lawyer, missing
 Gao Zhisheng, a writer and self-taught lawyer, became known in China for defending citizens against the state.

His pro-bono work has included cases for evicted homeowners, human rights activists, victims of medical malpractice and members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.

He published a book, A China More Just, detailing his experiences of confronting China’s legal and political system.

In August 2006, Mr Gao was arrested for “inciting subversion” through his writing.

He was sentenced to three years in prison in December 2006 but the jail term was suspended for five years. Mr Gao says he was tortured on several occasions while in detention.

He was also reportedly the target of an assassination attempt.

He went missing in February 2009, reappeared briefly a year later to say he was giving up campaigning for the sake of his family, and went missing again in the western province of Xinjiang in April 2010.

NI YULAN: Lawyer and activist
 Ni Yulan is best known as a campaigner for the rights of people evicted from their homes to make way for Beijing’s 2008 Summer Olympics.

A former lawyer, Ms Ni was jailed, beaten and disbarred, and her own home was bulldozed by authorities after a six-year battle in 2008.

She was first detained by police in 2002 for filming the forced demolition of a client’s home, and was beaten so badly that she is unable to walk without the aid of crutches, human rights groups say.

Released from prison earlier this year, Ms Ni and her husband are reportedly living in a hotel, relying on handouts from their supporters.

CHEN GUANGCHENG: Lawyer, presumed house arrest
 Chen Guangcheng, a blind activist known as the “barefoot lawyer”, clashed with the authorities over the enforcement of China’s one-child policy.

He defended women whom he said were being forced into late-term abortions and being sterilised by over-zealous health officials in Linyi city, Shandong Province.

He was freed earlier this year after serving four years in jail on charges of damaging property and disrupting traffic.

The sentence drew international criticism, with campaigners and supporters claiming that the prosecution was politically motivated.

Mr Chen has not spoken publicly since his reported release in September.

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