China dissident Xu Zhiyong trial set for Wednesday

  • Associated Press
  • January 17, 2014 - 10:40 AM

BEIJING — Chinese dissident Xu Zhiyong will go on trial next Wednesday on charges of disrupting public order, his lawyer said Friday.

Xu is a prominent legal activist who founded the New Citizens' Movement, a loose network of campaigners on a variety of social issues including corruption and equal access to education. At least a half dozen other activists associated with Xu's group have been charged and are also expected to be tried soon.

Xu's lawyer, Zhang Qingfang, said he and another lawyer met Friday with prosecutors, who rejected their protests over the charges. He said the trial would be held at Beijing's Intermediary Court.

Zhang said no media or outside observers will be allowed to attend, effectively making the hearing a secret trial. He said only two seats have been set aside for Xu's family.

Xu is a moderate but outspoken voice in China's beleaguered rights movement that has come under increasing pressure as the central government cracks down on grassroots efforts to build a civil society that might challenge its rule.

The charge of disrupting public order appears to be linked to Xu's call for people to hold monthly dinners to discuss China's constitution and other issues. The vaguely defined charge can result in sentences of several years.

In 2009, Xu was detained and formally arrested on suspicion of evading taxes — an allegation seen as a bid to stop him in his work in a legal aid organization that represented politically sensitive cases. He was released after spending about a month in jail, though hefty fines were levied on the group by the Beijing tax bureau.

He was detained again last July and in August delivered a bold message from inside a Beijing jail, urging citizens to unite in pursuing democratic freedoms.

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