02/18/2020, 10.04
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Beijing arrests human rights activist Xu Zhiyong

The arrest occurred during a health check for the coronavirus. Human rights defender, Xu had been wanted for some time. In early February he published an indictment of Xi Jinping for his management of the epidemic crisis, for the trade war with the United States and for the protests in Hong Kong.


Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Human rights activist Xu Zhiyong was arrested on Saturday, February 15, in Guangzhou (Guandong) during a "health check" to prevent the spread of Wuhan's coronavirus (Covid-19) .

On the run for some time, after attending a meeting with democratic activists in Xiamen (Fujian) last December, Xu has become one of President Xi Jinping's most open critics. In particular, his accusation is that the government's tightening on freedom of expression has favored the uncontrolled spread of the epidemic. An emblematic case in this regard is that of Li Wenliang, Wuhan's doctor who died while tackling the virus. Li had been the first to launch the alert, which cost him a police detention.

Xu was arrested at the home of his friends and sympathizers, some of whom were first arrested and then released. According to Radio Free Asia, the police allegedly used a facial recognition system to capture him. This suggests that the authorities are using the fight against coronavirus to repress internal dissent. In the context of the fight against the pulmonary epidemic, the government is, for example, authorized to seize citizens' properties.

Formerly a professor at Beijing University, Xu is a human rights lawyer, founder of the New Citizens Movement. For his ideas in defense of democracy, and for denouncing the corruption of members of the Communist Party, the activist was imprisoned in January 2014, serving a four-year sentence.

Xu published an article on the web in early February asking Xi to step down because he is "unable to manage" not only the coronavirus crisis, but also the war of trade war with the United States and pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. In a previous message he accused the Chinese president of having created a "new model of totalitarianism".

Another professor, Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Qinghua University, rose to prominence recently for his criticisms of the government's management of the epidemic crisis. For Xu, the repressive and tyrannical action of the authorities caused delays in the response, thus leading to the expansion of Covid-19.

A speech by Xi dated February 3, and reported by several state media, indicates that he had been aware of the epidemic since early January, when he launched an operation to counter it.

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