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An 84-year-old Chinese dissident is still missing after being snatched live on air

He shouted, “I have my freedom of speech.” The line then went dead.
Getty Images

An 84-year-old Chinese activist has disappeared after armed police broke into his home and abducted him while he was conducting a live radio interview.

Sun Wenguang was snatched by up to eight armed policemen Wednesday while speaking to U.S. government broadcaster Voice of America from his home in Jinan in eastern China.

The activist, who is a well-known and vocal critic of the government, was heard shouting “I have my freedom of speech” before the line went dead.


Voice of America said they had attempted to contact the professor since his abduction but as of Friday morning there was no official confirmation of where he is. Sources speaking to the broadcaster claimed the activist was being held in a military-run hotel somewhere in Shandong province.

Prior to being hauled away, Sun had been detailing his opposition to the government’s huge spending on infrastructure projects in Africa, part of its $1 trillion Belt and Road initiative.

“Did I say anything wrong?” he asks the police while still on air, adding: “People are poor. Let’s not throw away our money in Africa … listen up, throwing money away like this is no good to our country and society.”

This led the officers to close in. “What are you doing? Let me tell you, it is illegal for you to come into my home,” Sun said before being taken.

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Sun had recently attracted unwanted attention after he penned an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, criticizing his human rights policies and the government’s increasingly repressive crackdown on dissenting voices.

In the past Sun’s critical opinions have seen him sentenced to seven years in jail, having his pension cut and being denied a passport.

Rep. Chris Smith, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and co-chairman of the Congressional Executive Committee on China, called Thursday for Sun’s “immediate release if detained for engaging in what should be his right to free speech.”

Cover image: This screen grab taken from AFP video footage shows former professor Sun Wenguang talking in his home in Jinan, east China's Shandong province on August 28, 2013. (TANIA LEE/AFP/Getty Images)