10/23/2020, 12.38
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Beijing: academics and artists call for the release of publisher Geng Xiaonan

She was arrested along with her husband after defending dissident jurist Xu Zhangrun. The petition was also signed by prominent law professors like He Weifang and Zhang Qianfan. Organizers: False charges; the arrest is illegal. Petitions ignored by authorities.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - A group of jurists, artists and intellectuals have launched a petition to seek the release of Geng Xiaonan, a well-known publisher who was arrested after defending dissident academic Xu Zhangrun.

Geng was arrested on 9 September with her husband. This week the arrest was confirmed by the prosecutor. The couple owns the Ruyia Books publishing house which has organized various cultural and artistic initiatives with independent intellectuals and artists.

Initial press reports stated that the two publishers are accused of "illegal commercial operations", specifically of having illegally published more than 8,000 books. Hong Kong public television Rthk reported yesterday that the number of texts in the index had risen to 200,000.

The public request for their release was signed, among others, by Xu Zhangrun himself, a former professor of law at Qinghua; He Weifang and Zhang Qianfan, two of his colleagues from Beijing University; sociologist Guo Yuhua; Hao Jian, a retired professor at the capital's film academy; and art critic Li Xianting.

For the signatories of the document, Geng was not jailed for alleged illegal activities, but for helping teachers and activists jailed for the sole fault of expressing their ideas.

Xu Zhangrun, who has come under the scrutiny of censorship for his criticism of Xi Jinping, is one of them. In July he spent six days in prison on charges of having "solicited prostitution", a charge he rejects. Following this incident, the academic was fired from his university for "moral corruption".

The petitioners point out that Geng's arrest is completely illegal. Since the reason for the arrest is "inappropriate", the authorities violated Article 35 of the Constitution, which protects the freedom of citizens. Based on art. 70 of the administrative procedure law, they thus abused their power.

Official statistics say that around 6 million petitions are submitted every year in China. The mechanism, which dates back to the ancient imperial age, should represent an alternative to the judicial system for citizens who report violations by the authorities. Observers note, however, that it is not very effective, given the hostility towards it from the rulers, especially at a local level.

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