Mr. Xu, 36, is a founder of the Open Constitution Initiative, known in Chinese as Gongmeng, a nonprofit group that often has taken on high-profile cases involving ordinary citizens’ civil rights. The government shut down the organization’s legal center on July 17, three days after accusing it of tax violations, and the police seized Mr. Xu on July 29.
In an interview on Tuesday, his attorney, Zhou Ze, said Mr. Xu was formally charged on Aug. 12. Mr. Xu could face seven years in prison if he is tried and convicted. The prosecutors now must seek an indictment, but that is widely considered a formality.
The government’s main accusation is that Mr. Xu’s group failed to pay taxes on a $100,000 grant from Yale that was earmarked for the legal center. But human-rights advocates and foreign political analysts are agreed that the charges are politically inspired, part of what seems to be a growing effort by security officials to shut down independent advocacy and especially advocacy that is supported with foreign funds.
See also “Why have they taken citizen Xu?” from Chinayouren:
There has been some speculation on the net – especially on Chinese official media – about whether Xu’s NGO really had taxes unpaid and why. This discussion is completely beside the point, unless the Global Times explains that it is normal to be abducted 3 weeks for a first-time, minor tax offense. No, the real reason why Xu has been arrested can be understood in this Xinhua article issued last week:
In the national Justice conference the Minister of Justice Wu Aiying required: […] lawyers in our country must support the party leaders, adhere to the scientific development concept as a guide, uphold socialism with Chinese characteristics, ensure the correct political direction in lawyer’s work.
The message is simple, you do things with the party or against the party. There is no middle ground, and trying to find it by studying hard and following the law simply will not do. Because the party leaders are above the law.
And a post called “Sodom” by Leung Man-tao, translated by Danwei:
My friend Xu Zhiyuan (许志远) also wrote a deeply moving essay, “Our Generation,” (“我们这个时代”) in which he wrote that two years ago Xu Zhiyong had spiritedly said to him: “The 2008 Olympics will bring along with it a huge opportunity for reform. When the whole world has its eyes on Beijing, political authority will be restrained, and different grassroots organizations will use the opportunity to expand civil society.” I am not unfamiliar with this speech because I have expressed similar opinions: I was once full of hope for a China that had experienced the Wenchuan earthquake and the Beijing Olympics. Whenever a foreign journalist finds me to discuss China’s dark aspects, I would remind them at the end to always look on the bright side of things, just as I once reminded you to do.
And that brighter side included Xu Zhiyong and his partners at Gongmeng, and the rising group of rights lawyers, and the countless other warm-hearted people who want to do good things. But this country’s corruption, this social coldness, it’s as if everything is maintained through the tacit understanding of 1.3 billion people and certain lies. Even so, there are still many people who give up their time and go hither and thither for other people’s children, such as Tan Zuoren; and there are also many people willing to sacrifice the life that they could have enjoyed, instead choosing to knock doors for their fellows in trouble, such as Xu Zhiyong. I even optimistically put the government into this category, because at least they once let the rays of light sway in the murkiness. Perhaps they too will be swept up with it, and when they put in a vote by their foot, they’ll see how important the existence of good people is. If Heaven permits that you’re able to find someone good in Sodom.
Also, see “Xu Zhiyong and What His Detention Means for Rule of Law in China” by Elizabeth Lynch on Huffington Post and an article from the Guardian. Read more about Xu Zhiyong and Gongmeng, via CDT.