Xu Zhiyong became famous when he took up the cause of Sun Zhigang, a student who died in a detention centre in 2003
Chinese authorities have formally arrested a pioneering lawyer, more than two weeks after security officials took him from his home at dawn. His lawyer warned today that he was likely to face a trial.
Xu Zhiyong, 36, is one of the best-known human rights lawyers in the country and co-founder of Gongmeng, a legal group that has dealt with some of the most sensitive cases in recent years. He is accused of tax evasion and, if found guilty, could face up to seven years in prison.
“It’s not an indictment. But in the usual run of things, I expect the procuratorate will take the case to court, and the court is very unlikely to reject their case,” Xu’s lawyer, Li Fangping, told Reuters.
Amnesty International alleged in a statement: “The charges of tax evasion are a simple ploy to shut down the Open Constitution Initiative [Gongmeng].”
It added that Zhuang Lu, a staff member detained at the same time as Xu, had also been arrested.
Gongmeng has taken on high-profile cases, including the parents of children made ill by tainted baby milk formula, and issued a report criticising the handling of unrest across the Tibetan plateau.
Xu’s arrest comes amid a broader crackdown on activist lawyers, in which more than 50 have lost their licences to practise, and the curbing of other dissent in the run-up to the 60th anniversary of Communist party rule in October this year.