Court Verdict against Xu Zhiyong Is Travesty of Justice

Freedom House strongly condemns the Chinese government’s conviction of prominent human rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong for “gathering a crowd to disturb public order” and a court’s sentencing of him to four years imprisonment. Freedom House calls for his immediate release as well as the release of dozens of other activists detained over the past year on similar charges.

The No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court in Beijing announced its verdict January 26, on charges related to Xu’s involvement in organizing the New Citizens’ Movement, a network of activists seeking respect for basic human rights and greater transparency, including having Chinese officials to disclose their wealth.

“Handing out a four-year prison sentence to an activist who did nothing other than bring together like-minded people in the hopes of ending official corruption is a travesty of justice,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. “Politically-motivated prosecutions destroy the credibility of promises by Xi Jinping’s government to improve the rule of law in China.”

Xu’s prosecution is part of a larger trend highlighted in Freedom House’s recently released Freedom in the World assessment on China—that the new Communist Party leadership under Xi Jinping has proven even more intolerant of dissent than its predecessors.

“Dozens of other activists will likely face similar charges and trials in the coming months,” said Kramer. “It is imperative that the international community publicly object and press Chinese authorities to release these individuals immediately.”

The court announced its verdict four days after Xu’s trial, during which Xu was not permitted to finish his closing statement.  The timing of the decision as people prepared to celebrate the Chinese New Year hints at authorities’ concern about criticism should word of his case and unfair verdict spread.

China is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2014, Freedom House's annual global survey of political rights and civil liberties, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2013 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2013.

Learn more:
Freedom Alert: China Charges Activist Xu Zhiyong for Seeking Political Reform and Transparency
Freedom in the World 2014: China
Freedom of the Press 2013: China
Freedom on the Net 2013:China
The Long Shadow of Chinese Censorship: How Chinese Media Restrictions Affect News Outlets around the World
China Media Bulletin