Click photo to enlarge
FILE - This July 17, 2009 file photo shows legal scholar Xu Zhiyong at a meeting in Beijing, China. A rights group says Chinese lawyer Xu has been detained after calling for the release of activists and campaigning against government abuses. Human Rights in China said Wednesday, July 17, 2013 that police had also taken computers and mobile phones from Xu's Beijing home.
BEIJING—Chinese lawyer Xu Zhiyong has been detained after calling for the release of activists and campaigning against government abuses, a rights group and a fellow lawyer said Wednesday.

Police also took computers and mobile phones from Xu's Beijing home, Human Rights in China said.

A scanned detention notice distributed by the New York-based group said Xu was detained Tuesday evening on suspicion of gathering people to disturb order in a public place.

No details or causes were given to support the vaguely defined charge, which is often used to punish people who speak out against abuses.

Teng Biao, another prominent Beijing human rights lawyer, confirmed Xu's detention on the disturbing public order on Twitter. Teng said his telephone had been frozen and he could only communicate by computer.

Beijing police did not immediately answer faxed questions about Xu, who has campaigned for causes ranging from the closure of illegal detention centers to the public declaration of officials' personal assets.

Officers at Beijing's No. 3 Jail, where Xu was reportedly being held, said they weren't permitted to speak to media.

Xu has frequently been punished for his outspokenness by lengthy periods of house arrest, the most recent beginning on April 12 after he signed a letter in support of other detained activists.

China's Communist Party rulers brook no challenge to their rule and frequently punish critics with lengthy prison sentences, such as the 11-year term given to Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo for co-authoring a call for sweeping political reforms.

Authorities say they protect citizens' legal rights and point to vast improvements in incomes and quality of life achieved over the past three decades.