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China activist formally indicted for role in anti-corruption campaign

A lawyer representing Chinese activist Xu Zhiyong said Friday that his client has been formally indicted for his role in a wave of protests against corruption within the Chinese government. Xu, founder of the New Citizen's Movement [WSJ backgrounder], was detained [JURIST report] five months ago after members of his organization strung banners throughout Beijing demanding government officials to declare their assets, an effort to promote financial transparency [The Guardian report] amongst China's governing class. Xu is also a law lecturer at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications [academic website] and founder of the Open Constitution Initiative (Gongmeng) [Economist report], frequently advocating for rural children's right to be educated in cities where many live with migrant worker parents. According to his lawyer, the currently unknown charges [NYT report] will in all likelihood include "assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place," a crime that carries up to a five-year prison term.

The detainment of anti-corruption activists has been a recurrent human rights issue in China. In August Chinese writer, lawyer and human rights advocate Yang Maodong, commonly known by his pen-name Guo Feixiong [HRIC profile], became the second leader, following Xu, of the New Citizens movement to be arrested on suspicion of disrupting the peace. In June a Chinese court in Huairou sentenced [JURIST report] Liu Hui, brother-in-law of the Nobel Peace Prize winner and democracy activist Liu Xiaobo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], to 11 years in prison on charges of fraud. In May China's Nanjing Intermediate People's Court issued a life sentence [JURIST report] to Huang Sheng, the former provincial deputy governor of Shandong Province, for accepting almost $2 million in bribes from 21 organizations and numerous individuals between 1998 and 2011.

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