Chinese human rights group Gongmeng announced July 30 that its co-founder, prominent attorney Xu Zhiyong, was arrested at his home the previous morning and has not been heard from since. The group has also been unable to reach a second staff member, Zhuang Lu. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have expressed concern over the detentions of Xu and Zhuang, calling for their immediate release. China’s recent measures against human rights lawyers are viewed by many as an attempt to quash dissidence as the 60th anniversary of Communist rule approaches in October.
Zhiyong’s arrest comes less than two weeks after Chinese officials from Beijing’s Civil Affairs Bureau shut down Gongmeng’s legal research center. Officials confiscated computers and other equipment, telling staff that the center was not properly registered. A lawyer for Gongmeng said that the research center was part of Gongmeng, which is properly registered. A statement from Gongmeng called the Civil Affairs Bureau’s actions “illegal.” Gongmeng had recently gained notoriety by representing the families of children who were sickened by tainted milk. Earlier this month, the Chinese government suspended the licenses of 53 lawyers in Beijing, including prominent human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, for failing to pass an assessment or failing to register. (Jurist, July 30)
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