Sunday, August 9, 2009

Xu Zhiyong arrested

I had quoted in several of my articles the research done by Xu Zhiyong and his group on the 2008 unrest in Tibet. He has now been arrested for telling the truth.
When will independent thinking be allowed in China? Repression seems the only way the Mandarins of Zhongnanhai know; whether it is in Tibet, in Xinjiang or in the mainland. How long will it last?

Well-known human rights lawyer arrested
Xu Zhiyong was taken away on Wednesday and has not been heard ever since. A member of his staff, Zhuang Lu, also disappeared. Experts believe a campaign of arrests and intimidation is underway to silence dissenters ahead of this year’s celebrations of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in October.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Xu Zhiyong, a well-known Beijing lawyer and human rights activist, was taken away by the police on Wednesday, the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) organisation reported. Reasons for his detention or his whereabouts are currently unknown.
Xu heads the Open Constitution Initiative, or Gongmeng, a legal aid centre that provides free legal counsel to people who cannot afford to pay a lawyer. Zhuang Lu, a Gongmeng staff member, was also seized at around the same time as Xu’s arrest. Reasons for his detention or his whereabouts are also unknown.
Gongmeng was banned on 17 July after receiving a 1.42 million yuan (about US$ 200,000) fine for tax evasion.
The centre had applied for tax exemption status because it provided non-profit services to some of its clients. The tax authorities rejected their application and claimed that having provided such services it had not pay taxes on them. The government then proceeded to shut down the centre and block its website, arguing that its administrators were guilty of with tax irregularities.
Yesterday, after Xu’s arrest, the State Administration of Taxation held a hearing about its decision to fine Gongmeng 1.42 million RMB for “tax evasion”. The activities for which it was closed included providing legal counsel to parents of children who were poisoned by melamine-tainted milk and legal advice to petitioners, particularly those detained in black jails.
For some time Chinese bar associations, which are controlled by the Communist Party, have been advising their members not to provide legal counsel to such people, especially if they intend to sue the State or public agencies. Many of the lawyers who refused to do as they were told have lost their licence to practice.
On Wednesday in Beijing police raided the offices of another NGO, the Yirenping Centre, an advocacy group for the rights of hepatitis patients as well as other health-related discrimination issues. Claiming that Yirenping was involved in unauthorised “publishing activities”, law enforcement officers seized its publications even though they did not have any warrant authorising them to do so.
According to the CHRD, Beijing is clamping down on independent rights groups in order to silence all forms of dissent ahead of next October’s 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

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