Can Words Set Xu Free?
Do words really matter?
Candidate Barack Obama famously told Hillary Clinton that they do, and now we are about to find out exactly how much the president and secretary of state’s words — and those of the new U.S. ambassador to China — matter to the Chinese government on human rights.
The Chinese government is in the midst of its most repressive crackdown on lawyers in the seven years since Hu Jintao took the helm of the Communist Party, forcing Obama administration officials to confront an issue they would rather have kept in the background before the president’s first visit to China in November.
This week police formally arrested Xu Zhiyong, a highly respected legal scholar and elected legislator from the mainstream of China’s legal rights movement, on dubious tax-evasion charges related to his legal services non-governmental organization, Gongmeng, which the government also shut down.