Civil rights activist and lawyer Xu Zhiyong was detained by Beijing police on Tuesday, July 16 and accused of “gathering crowds to disrupt order in public venues.” Two volunteers with the organization founded by Xu, Gongmeng (Citizen, formerly Open Constitution Initiative), were also detained on July 12, and a third is missing and is believed to have been detained as well.
Xu has been under house arrest since April 12, soon after he wrote an open letter calling for the release of activists who demanded that officials disclose their financial assets. China Change translated accounts of Xu’s detention:
According to the Notice of Detention, Dr. Xu was detained for allegedly “gathering crowds to disrupt order in public venues.”
In addition, Song Ze (宋泽) has been disappeared since the night of July 12, and no relatives and friends have been able to get in touch with him. He is a volunteer with Gong Meng, and for much of 2012, he had been “residing under surveillance (监视居住).” Because another two activists associated with Gong Meng, Li Huanjun (李焕君) and Li Gang (李刚), were criminally detained also on the evening of July 12, it is believed that Song Ze was also detained.
The detention of Dr. Xu’s and three others are believed to be part of the crackdown on civic actions that is on the rise in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities. In April, Beijing police detained 10 citizens for publicly demanding asset disclosure by government officials. In May, the government announced the formal arrest of the ten on trumped up charges such as “illegal assembly” (非法集会), “provoking disturbances” (寻衅滋事), “gathering to disrupt social order” (聚众扰乱社会秩序), “inciting to subvert state power”(煽动颠覆国家政权) and more. One of the ten, Qi Yueying, a native Beijinger whose house was demolished in a grotesquely unfair compensation deal, was charged with “extortion.” [Source]
The growing movement for disclosure of official assets has been met with increasing police intervention. Three activists from Jiangxi have been charged with “illegal assembly” and will go on trial shortly, according to the South China Morning Post:
China has detained at least 15 activists in recent months who were involved in a campaign pushing for officials to publicly disclose their wealth in what rights groups describe as the first major crackdown by the new government on activists.
The move to put the anti-corruption activists on trial has raised fears that an official campaign of reprisals has begun.
Liu Ping, Li Sihua and Wei Zhongping were detained in late April in Xinyu in the southern province of Jiangxi, and accused of illegal assembly. They face a maximum of five years in prison, if convicted.
Officials in Xinyu could not be reached for comment. [Source]
In February, Xu signed an open letter calling on the government to ratify the the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. He also wrote an essay about the New Citizens Movement. Read more by and about Xu via CDT.