Hundreds of Chinese scholars, students and journalists have signed a petition calling for a leftist intellectual to be released from police custody in a case that shows how Beijing's crackdown on civil society extends across the political spectrum.
Zhang Yunfan, a recent graduate of China's prestigious Peking University, was detained last month in the southern city of Guangzhou for "organizing mass gatherings that disturbed social order," the petition says.
Zhang was helming a group discussion at a local university on authorities' response to leftist speech when local police arrived and hauled away some of the participants, the petition said.
The unnamed organizers of the petition said they had sent it to the local public security bureau in Guangzhou's Panyu district which is overseeing the case.
China's outspoken leftists believe the country's political and economic reforms have abandoned Mao's goal of transforming the nation into a Communist utopia - citing the growing gap between the rich and poor.