Activist Xu Zhiyong smuggles video speech out of detention centre

Detained academic Xu Zhiyong says he'll give up his freedom to help drive political change

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 August, 2013, 10:19am

The detained activist and legal scholar Xu Zhiyong said he was willing to exchange his freedom for a China with "liberty, justice and love" in a brief video apparently shot and smuggled out of police detention last week.

The 40-year-old lecturer at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications was detained by Beijing police more than two weeks ago on a charge of "gathering a crowd to disturb order in public places".

Appearing in the video in handcuffs and an orange jail vest, Xu said the real reason he was being detained was his advocacy for ordinary citizens to exercise their constitutional rights and responsibilities, his push for equal education rights for migrant children and his call for officials to declare their assets.

Xu founded the New Citizen social initiative last year, which pushes for democracy, rule of law and basic civil rights. Xu has said previously that he estimates the movement has thousands of supporters across the county.

"In this ludicrous day and age, these are my three major crimes," he said. But, he added, no matter how "rotten and absurd this society is", the country needed courageous citizens to stand up for their beliefs.

"For society to progress, someone has to pay a price. I am willing to pay that price for the sake of my belief in freedom, justice and love," he said in the video which lasts less than 90 seconds.

For society to progress, someone has to pay a price. I am willing to pay that price for the sake of my belief in freedom, justice and love
Detained activist and legal scholar Xu Zhiyong

He called on his supporters to respect their rights and responsibilities as citizens to fight for democracy.

"We will be able to build a China with liberty, justice and love," he said.

In a phone interview with the South China Morning Post in December during house arrest, Xu that he was not afraid of jail. It's not clear who shot the video but only lawyers normally have access to people held in custody. Xu is at the Beijing No3 police detention centre.

The video has been available online since Wednesday.

Although liberals were heartened by President Xi Jinping's rhetoric on constitutional rule in December shortly after he assumed the party leadership, the detention of Xu and others campaigning for official accountability has raised fears that the government still has little tolerance for its critics.

As of Wednesday, 2,675 people had signed an online petition for the release of Xu and other activists detained for demanding officials disclose their assets. One of the initiators of the petition, journalist Xiao Shu, was himself detained by police for two days last week.

Xu has been held in custody or placed under house arrest without charge numerous times since 2009, after authorities closed his non-profit legal aid centre, called Gongmeng, or the Open Constitution Initiative, and detained him for nearly a month. He has been barred from teaching at his university since then.

Xu's close friend, legal scholar Teng Biao, said earlier Xu's detention was the latest in a crackdown on dozens of activists across the country who were involved in the campaign for official accountability.