Xu Zhiyong: An Account of My Recent Disappearance

Xu Zhiyong, noted Chinese rights lawyer and legal activist, was detained on June 7th following a recent blog entry calling for a “new civic movement” in China. He was released the next day, and described on his blog how security officers covered his head with a black cloth and took him to a hotel room on the outskirts of Beijing. From Yaxue Cao at Seeing Red in China:

Having traveled for about half an hour, first on highway and then over a bumpy road, we arrived and got out of the car. Intuitively I tried to remove the black cover over my head when a man huffed, “Don’t!” and two men seized me by the arms.

We got into a room, as I sensed, and I was pressed down into what seemed to me like the corner of a sofa. I was stripped of my belt, my shoe laces and everything I had with me. People were shuffling in and out of the room. One voice said to me, “For now, think what you have done lately. Think hard! We’ll ask you questions in the afternoon!” I sat still and said nothing.

Xu recalls that last year he was detained by security police for organizing “a relatively large-scale petition for equal rights for education”. He was taken to a hot-spring resort but refused to cooperate with security police in this so-called “tourism”. On both occasions, Xu protested his illegal detention by refusing to accept the meals provided by security officers.

After an officer threatened to prosecute Xu for “inciting subversion of state power”, Xu argued that “all of our efforts are to protect the liberty and human rights of each and every Chinese …. No one will be able to reverse the historical tide, so don’t overdo it.”

Xu attributed the relatively humane treatment he received to “wide attention” from the outside world, contrasting this with other cases of illegal detention involving physical abuse and even deaths. He expressed gratitude towards the “new citizens” who are concerned with human rights conditions in China. He ascribed his detention and harassment to his endless efforts to promote civil rights and stated that he would be willing to “pay a price for the freedom of the people”. From Seeing Red in China:

The new civil movement calls individual citizens to spread the principles of democracy and rule of law, to abide a civil code of actions, to reject privileges and corruption. And we advocate liberty, justice and love, which is the spirit of the new civic movement. Our mission is to end, from the root, the cycle of regime change through violence and give freedom back to each and every Chinese. This is the reason for which I lost my own freedom for the time being.

Xu signed his blog post “Citizen Xu Zhiyong”: his organisation, ‘Citizen’, has been distributing pins bearing the Chinese characters for the term, 公民 gongmin, in Sun Yat-sen’s handwriting. A recent post on CDT described the “decapitation” of Sina Weibo users who had adopted these characters as their avatars.

Xu was accused of tax evasion in 2010, but the case was dismissed soon afterwards. Read more about Xu Zhiyong on China Digital Times.


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