Police Take Away Xu Zhiyong, Leader of Barred NGOComments Off on Police Take Away Xu Zhiyong, Leader of Barred NGO
Police Take Away Xu Zhiyong, Leader of Barred NGO
(Chinese Human Rights Defenders- July 30, 2009) – CHRD learned today that Xu Zhiyong (许志永), director of the recently-banned legal aid center Open Constitution Initiative (also known as Gongmeng [公盟]), was taken away by the police around 5am on July 29, Beijing local time. His whereabouts are currently unknown. Efforts to contact him have been unsuccessful as his cell phone has been switched off.
Around 5am on July 29, Xu was taken away from his home in a suburb of Beijing by seven policemen, according to a security guard at Xu’s housing complex. Around the same time, Zhuang Lu (庄璐), a staff member at Gongmeng, was also seized. It is feared that both Xu and Zhuang have been detained by the police. It is unclear which police division carried out this early morning round-up.
This morning, the State Administration of Taxation held a hearing about its decision to fine Gongmeng 1.42 million RMB for “tax evasion”. Xu did not show up at the hearing. Although the proceedings was supposed to be open to the public, about thirty activists and supporters were barred from attending. Only Peng Jian (彭剑) and Li Xiongbing (黎雄兵), two lawyers advising Gongmeng, were allowed to be present.
In a separate incident, at around 10 o’clock on the morning of July 29, a police officer from the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau (PSB) and two members of the Cultural Market Administrative Law Enforcement General Brigade arrived, without any previous announcement, at the office of Beijing’s Yirenping Center (益仁平), an organization that focuses on the rights of hepatitis patients and other health-related discrimination issues. The officials claimed that Yirenping was involved in unauthorized “publishing activities” and then proceeded to inspect the office, photograph its publications and confiscate a hundred copies of its publications, Anti-Discrimination Communications. Yirenping’s lawyers later discovered that one of the “inspectors” did not have a valid official ID authorizing such an inspection.
“This ‘inspection’ of Yirenping’s office, coming on the heels of the raid and closure of Gongmeng, is a clear act of intimidation against yet another independent group in Beijing”, said David Smalls, CHRD’s Research Associate.
On July 14, Gongmeng received notifications from both the State Administration of Taxation and the local Bureau of Taxation in Beijing that they had been fined 1.42 million RMB for “tax evasion”. Three days later, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Civil Affairs declared the organization “illegal”, raided its office and formally banned it. Gongmeng had been actively involved in investigating “sensitive” cases, such as the Sanlu milk scandal, and in assisting petitioners, particularly those detained in black jails. Its affiliates, mostly Beijing lawyers, have played important roles in the campaign to urge open and direct elections for the leadership of the Beijing Lawyers Association, an effort that has cost many of them their lawyers’ licenses. On July 21, the landlords of the office space formerly rented by Gongmeng and Xu’s private home separately called Xu and urged him to move as soon as possible. It is believed that government officials are behind this further pressure on Xu.
Xu, a professor at Beijing Post and Telecommunications University and an elected representative for Haidian District, Beijing, to the National People’s Congress, is listed as a research fellow and member of Gongmeng’s board of directors on the organization’s website. When Xu was a doctoral student in law at Beijing University, he and two other students were instrumental in urging the State Council to abolish the notorious “Custody and Repatriation” detention system.
Both Gongmeng and Yirenping are organizations registered with the State Administration of Industry and Commerce (SAIC). Many independently-minded organizations have chosen to register with the SAIC as it is nearly impossible for organizations without official connections to register as non-profits with the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA).
Because they have not registered with the MCA, they are officially “illegal” organizations, and face varying degrees of harassment from the authorities. Organizations that are more vocal in their criticism of the government and its policies, or those organized by activists and dissidents, are especially targeted for harassment and threats of closure.
Media contacts for this release:
Renee Xia, International Director (English and Mandarin): +852 8191 6937
Wang Songlian, Research Coordinator and English Editor (English, Mandarin and Cantonese): +852 8191 1660