Leading citizen movement activist Xu Zhiyong formally charged

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 December, 2013, 7:14pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 December, 2013, 2:59am

Beijing prosecutors have formally charged Xu Zhiyong - a prominent campaigner for making officials disclose their wealth - over anti-graft demonstrations, his lawyer said yesterday.

Xu, who has also pushed for greater civil rights, was arrested in August in a case that exposed the limits of the Communist Party's drive against deep-rooted corruption.

The United States and the European Union have repeatedly expressed concern about Xu's case, while sparring with Beijing over human rights.

Xu's lawyer, Zhang Qingfang, said Xu had been charged with "disturbing public order", a common accusation against rights activists who attempt any form of protest. He said he was surprised at how fast the case was moving.

"Unexpectedly they've managed to decide within a week that they want to prosecute such a complex case," Zhang said. "This is inconceivable."

Asked when the trial might be held, Zhang said: "All I can say is that it will be very quick, within a month."

At least 16 activists involved in the asset-disclosure campaign have been detained nationwide, in what rights groups say is the new leadership's first crackdown targeting anti-graft campaigners.

Xu, the founder of the New Citizen movement, has advocated working within the system to press for change. He has urged officials online to disclose their assets and fellow activists have taken to the streets to exhort citizens to fight corruption.

Beijing police, in a letter recommending Xu's prosecution, said he organised activities to hang banners in public spaces calling for the disclosures and equal access to education.

Xu activities "created serious disturbances in public order in public places" and he interfered with the work of public security officials, according to the police document.

Reuters, Associated Press