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Chinese microblogger who questioned oil refinery plan is detained on rare business charge

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BEIJING, China - A well-known Chinese microblogger who has for years raised questions about government policies and actions — most recently a plan to build an oil refinery — has been detained on a seldom-used charge involving registering a business.

Supporters of Dong Rubin say his detention Tuesday in the southern Chinese city of Kunming is retribution by authorities for his activism.

"If they want to punish you, they can always find an excuse," Dong's friend Zheng Xiejian said. "They could not find any wrongdoing against Dong and had to settle on this obscure charge."

Dong's detention also comes amid a national campaign by China's leaders to clamp down on what they call online rumours and efforts to erode the rule of the Communist Party through lies and negative news.

Dong's lawyer, Xiao Dongzhi, on Thursday confirmed his client's detention, saying he was charged with inflating the amount of his business' capital when he registered it. Xiao noted that there was no victim in the transaction and that the charge is rarely levelled against anyone.

On his microblog, Dong said strangers raided his office in late August and took away three computers without providing any legal document. "What crime will they bring against me? Prostituting, gambling, using and selling drugs, evading tax, causing trouble on purpose, fabricating rumours, running a mafia online?" Dong wrote, listing possible offences.

Dong is best known for pushing for thorough investigations of a suspicious death of a young man in a detention centre in 2009. Authorities initially said it was accidental but later admitted the man was beaten to death.

Most recently, Dong raised safety and environmental concerns about an oil refinery project near the city of Kunming.

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