Chinese social media sites have echoed for days with a question that has been met with silence by Communist Party officials: Where is Li Tiantian?

Ms. Li, an outspoken but previously little known teacher at a rural school in Hunan Province, southern China, disappeared after telling friends that police officers had forced their way into her home and were taking her to a psychiatric hospital. She told them the authorities had accused her of violating the bounds of officially acceptable comment on social media.

In recent weeks, Ms. Li had publicly sympathized with a teacher in Shanghai who was hounded online and fired after saying that there should be more rigorous study of China’s official death count for the Nanjing massacre, the Japanese Army’s murder of residents of that city in 1937.

“I’ve been targeted by public security,” Ms. Li said in one message to Cui Junjie, a friend who has galvanized support for Ms. Li on the internet. Mr. Cui shared screenshots of Ms. Li’s messages with The New York Times.

“I didn’t commit any crime, so I can never admit to one,” she told Mr. Cui. “But they want to seize the chance to convict me.”

Ms. Li, 27, has complained of bouts of depression. But many friends and supporters believe that she has become a victim of a decades-old practice in China: using psychiatric confinement to stifle dissenters. Even if she was unwell, they have said, enforced confinement was not an answer.

The authorities had stayed mostly mute about Ms. Li’s disappearance on Sunday and did not answer repeated phone calls from The New York Times. The local government of Xiangxi, the area of Hunan

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