After being detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels” in October, scholar Guo Yushan, who played an instrumental role in allowing Chen Guangcheng’s 2012 escape from house arrest, has now been arrested on the charge of “illegal business activity.” Guo founded the Transition Institute, an independent think-tank devoted to helping “facilitate China’s transformation into a country characterized by liberal democracy, strong civil society, and free markets.” The organization was raided and shut down after the arrest of now jailed civil society activist Xu Zhiyong in 2013. Reuters’ Sui-Lee Wee reports:
[…] Guo is an idealistic but media-shy scholar who launched campaigns that drew support from the public, including efforts to raise funds for victims of a tainted milk formula scandal in 2008.
Maya Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said Guo’s detention was “another milestone in the ongoing, severe crackdown on civil liberties” over the past 18 months.
“Although Guo has been at the forefront of China’s rights movement, he has also tried to keep a low profile, to remain in that narrowing space without being jailed,” she said.
The New York Times’ Edward Wong reports on the use of the “illegal business” charge in authorities ongoing crackdown on dissent and civil society, a campaign that recently snared Guo’s lawyer, leaving him with no legal representation currently:
Chinese officials are stepping up the use of the “illegal business” accusation to silence liberal voices. Last month, a Beijing district court sentenced the maker of a documentary on the Chinese Constitution, Shen Yongping, to a year in prison on the same charge. Mr. Shen’s lawyer called the charge an outrage and said Mr. Shen had not made the film for profit. It had been posted online and was available as a free download.
Xi Jinping, the Chinese president and leader of the Communist Party, has taken a tough line against political and social dissent, and many rights advocates have been detained and arrested since he took power in November 2012. His push of a leftist ideology with anti-Western overtones has also emboldened conservatives to go on the attack against liberal voices.
Mr. Guo has no lawyer at the moment because his lawyer, Xia Lin, was detained by officials in November, said Hu Jia, a rights activist who is a friend of Mr. Guo’s. Mr. Xia had also been representing Pu Zhiqiang, a well-known rights lawyer now in official custody who was charged in June with “creating a public disturbance.” Mr. Pu had attended a gathering in May at a scholar’s home in Beijing to honor the victims of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. [Source]