#Human Rights
United Nations, Ban ki-Moon, Navil Pillay, State Department, European Parliament, EU, PRC

Xu Zhiyong (Chinese: 许志永) is a lecturer at the Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications. He was one of the founders of the NGO Open Constitution Initiative and an active rights lawyer in China who helped those underprivileged. He is the main founder and icon of the New Citizens' Movement in China.

Police arrested Xu, who has called for officials to disclose their wealth, raising the stakes in the government's crackdown on anti-graft campaigners.

The arrest of Xu is viewed by many, including Human Rights Watch, as part of an ongoing campaign by the People's Republic regime and the Communist Party to crack down on civil society in China and shore up one-party rule.

Since February 2013 the government has arbitrarily detained at least 55 activists, taken into custody critics and online opinion leaders, and increased controls on social media, online expression, and public activism, rolling back the hard-won space China’s civil society has gained in recent years.

The crackdown is unfolding as China campaigns to be elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the UN’s preeminent human rights body, in November 2013, and prepares for the review of its human rights record before the council in October 2013.

The Chinese government has embarked on a repressive drive at home that attacks the very freedoms that Human Rights Council members are supposed to protect,” said Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch China director. “Every arrest of a peaceful activist further undermines the Chinese government’s standing at home and abroad.”

Seventeen of those arrested in recent months had participated in the New Citizens’ Movement, a peaceful civil rights platform that rejects authoritarianism and promotes freedom, justice, equality, and the rule of law. The New Citizens’ Movement organizes a range of activities, including a nationwide campaign that advocates for the disclosure of assets of public officials as a way to curb corruption, and monthly gatherings over meals for activists around the country to exchange ideas and build solidarity.

On August 2, 2013, the State Prosecution approved the formal arrest of Xu Zhiyong, the most prominent activist detained so far and considered the intellectual force behind the New Citizens’ Movement.

Xu has been held since July 16 for “gathering crowds to disturb public order,” even though he has been under house arrest since April. If convicted, Xu faces up to five years in prison. Xu, 40, is a law lecturer at Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications, and was once distinguished by the state broadcaster CCTV as one of the “top ten rule of law people” in China. In 2009 he was forced to disband the legal aid center he helped set up, the Open Constitution Initiative, after police detained him and a co-worker for tax evasion.

“Xu Zhiyong is one of the most important activists behind the birth of China’s ‘rights-defense’ movement that emerged around 2003,” Richardson said. “While Xu’s cautious approach has helped keep him out of jail for the past 10 years, his recent arrest indicates that even safer strategies won’t spare activists from severe consequences.”

WHEREAS: Xu Zhiyong is clearly a prisoner of conscience being jailed solely because of his peaceful pursuit of his work as a human rights lawyer and as a contributer to such civil society groups as "New Citizens' Movement";

AND WHEREAS: His arrest and imprisonment is therefore illegal under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights treaties to which China is a signatory state;

AND WHEREAS: The entire campaign against New Citizens' Movement and other citizens' groups in China is part of an illegal war of persecution against China's civil society by its own government;

THEREFORE: We, the undersigned demand that the international community at all levels stand up to the government of the People's Republic of China and DEMAND the IMMEDIATE and UNCONDITIONAL release of Xu Zhiyong and all other civil society activists and prisoners of conscience in China.

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The Free Chinese Human Rights Lawyer Xu Zhiyong 许志永 petition to United Nations, Ban ki-Moon, Navil Pillay, State Department, European Parliament, EU, PRC was written by John S. Burke and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition.