Police Take Away Xu Zhiyong, Leader of Barred NGO
From: ChineseHuman Rights Defenders(CHRD)
(Chinese Human Rights Defenders- July 30, 2009) – CHRDlearned today that Xu Zhiyong (许志永),director of the recently-banned legal aid center Open ConstitutionInitiative (alsoknown as Gongmeng [公盟]),wastaken away by the police around 5am on July 29, Beijing local time. Hiswhereabouts are currently unknown. Efforts tocontact him have been unsuccessfulas his cell phone has been switched off. Around5am on July 29,Xu was taken away from his home in a suburb of Beijing by sevenpolicemen, accordingto 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 XuandZhuang have been detained by the police. It is unclear which policedivisioncarried out this early morning round-up.
Thismorning, the State Administration ofTaxation held a hearing about its decision to fine Gongmeng 1.42million RMBfor “tax evasion”. Xu did not show up at the hearing. Although theproceedingswas supposed to be open to the public, about thirty activists andsupporters were barred from attending. Only Peng Jian (彭剑)and Li Xiongbing (黎雄兵),twolawyers advising Gongmeng, were allowed to be present.
In a separate incident, at around 10 o’clock onthe morningof July 29, a police officer from the Beijing Municipal Public SecurityBureau (PSB)and two members of the Cultural Market Administrative Law EnforcementGeneralBrigade arrived, without any previous announcement, at the office ofBeijing’s YirenpingCenter (益仁平), anorganization thatfocuses on the rights of hepatitis patients and otherhealth-related discriminationissues. The officials claimed that Yirenping was involved inunauthorized “publishingactivities” and then proceeded to inspect the office, photograph itspublications and confiscate a hundred copies of its publications, Anti-Discrimination Communications. Yirenping’slawyers later discovered that one of the “inspectors” did not have avalidofficial ID authorizing such an inspection.
“This ‘inspection’ of Yirenping’s office, comingon theheels of the raid and closure of Gongmeng, is a clear act ofintimidationagainst yet another independent group in Beijing”, said David Smalls,CHRD’sResearch Associate.
On July 14, Gongmeng received notifications fromboth theState Administration of Taxation and the local Bureau of Taxation inBeijingthat they had been fined 1.42 million RMB for “tax evasion”. Three dayslater,the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Civil Affairs declared the organization“illegal”, raided its office and formally banned it. Gongmeng had beenactivelyinvolved in investigating “sensitive” cases, such as the Sanlu milkscandal, andin assisting petitioners, particularly those detained in black jails. Its affiliates, mostly Beijing lawyers, haveplayed important roles in the campaign to urge open and directelections forthe leadership of the Beijing Lawyers Association, an effort that hascost manyof them their lawyers’ licenses. On July 21, the landlords of theoffice spaceformerly rented by Gongmeng and Xu’s private home separately called Xuandurged him to move as soon as possible. Itis believed that government officials are behind this further pressureon Xu.
Xu, a professor at Beijing Post andTelecommunicationsUniversity and an elected representative for Haidian District, Beijing,to theNational People’s Congress, is listed as a research fellow and memberofGongmeng’s board of directors on the organization’s website. When Xu was a doctoral student in law atBeijing University, he and two other students were instrumental inurging theState Council to abolish the notorious “Custody and Repatriation”detentionsystem.
Both Gongmeng and Yirenping are organizationsregisteredwith the State Administration of Industry and Commerce (SAIC). Manyindependently-mindedorganizations have chosen to register with the SAIC as it is nearlyimpossiblefor organizations without official connections to register asnon-profits withthe Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA).
Because they have not registered with the MCA,they areofficially “illegal” organizations, and face varying degrees ofharassment fromthe authorities. Organizations that are more vocal in their criticismof thegovernment and its policies, or those organized by activists anddissidents,are especially targeted for harassment and threats of closure.
Media contacts for this release:
Renee Xia, International Director (English andMandarin):+852 8191 6937Wang Songlian, Research Coordinator and English Editor(English, Mandarin and Cantonese): +852 8191 1660
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