Xu Zhiyong

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Xu Zhiyong
Xu Zhiyong.JPG
Born (1973-03-02) March 2, 1973 (age 46)
Alma materLanzhou University, Peking University
OccupationLegal scholar
Known forCivil rights advocacy
Spouse(s)Cui Zheng

Xu Zhiyong (Chinese: 许志永; pinyin: Xǔ Zhìyǒng; born March 2, 1973) is a Chinese civil rights activist and formerly a lecturer at the Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications. He was one of the founders of the NGO Open Constitution Initiative and an active rights lawyer in China who helped those underprivileged. He is the main founder and icon of the New Citizens' Movement in China. In January 2014 he was sentenced to four years in prison for "gathering crowds to disrupt public order".[1]

Personal life[edit]

Xu was born in Minquan County, Henan Province in 1973. He is married to Cui Zheng (崔筝), a journalist. Their daughter was born on January 13, 2014, while Xu was in a detention center facing trial.[2]

Career and activism[edit]

Xu received his Bachelor of Law degree from Lanzhou University in 1994 and Doctor of Law degree from Beijing University in 2002.

The Gongmeng era[edit]

In 2003, he was elected to the Haidian District People's Congress as an independent. He won the re-election in 2006.[3] However, in the 2011 election, Xu's name was pulled off the candidate list, but he still gathered more than 3,500 votes out of 22,000 voters in his district.

Unlike other human rights activists, Xu firmly and carefully pushed his calls for political change and social justice in existing laws, and his group has been regarded as relatively cautious and conservative.[4][5] In his recent interview before his arrest, he described his dream

I wish our country could be a free and happy one. Every citizen need not go against their conscience and can find their own place by their virtue and talents; a simple and happy society, where the goodness of humanity is expanded to the maximum, and the evilness of humanity is constrained to the minimum; honesty, trust, kindness, and helping each other are everyday occurrences in life; there is not so much anger and anxiety, a pure smile on everyone's face.

— Xu Zhiyong[6]

The 2009 Gong Meng incident[edit]

In 2009, July 29, he was arrested at his home, and detained by Chinese authorities on charges of tax evasion.[7][8] At the same time Xu's colleague Zhuang Lu was also arrested by authorities.[9]

The Open Constitution Initiative, which Xu co-founded, was fined 1.46 million RMB on July 14, 2009 for 'dodging taxes' and was shut down by the authorities by declaring it "illegal".[10]

Xu Zhiyong was released on bail on August 23, 2009.[9] The Australian newspaper The Age reported that the release of Xu, Zhuang and another Chinese dissident, Ilham Tohti, was in part due to pressure on Beijing from the administration of American President Barack Obama.[11]

Post-Gong Meng era and the New Citizens Movement[edit]

After Gong Meng was shut down, Xu Zhiyong and supporters adopted the name "Citizens" to continue their cause. In May 2012, Xu formally established the "New Citizens' Movement" and "New Citizens' Spirit" as the high-level concept of their activism.

In 2013, Xu Zhiyong was placed under house arrest for more than three months, before being formally arrested on August 22.[12] His trial started on Jan 22, 2014. Xu and his lawyer Zhang Qingfang remained silent throughout the trial (except for his closing statement) to protest the violation of basic legal procedure. Xu's closing statement was cut short by the judge, but the text was circulated on the internet and raised tremendous support.[13] On January 26, 2014, Xu was sentenced to four years in prison for "gathering crowds to disrupt public order".[1]

Xu is listed in 2013's Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy.[14]

Prominent writings and speeches[edit]

  • Xu Zhiyong's closing statement in court (Jan 22, 2014) Chinese English (translated by ChinaChange.org)
  • The Last Ten Years, China's rights movement through the work of Gong Meng. Chinese English (translated by ChinaChange.org)
  • A trip to Ngaba, (the Tibetan prefecture in Northern Sichuan province where many Tibetans have self-immolated over the last four years or so. A shorter version of the essay was published in the New York Times in December, 2012). Chinese English (translated by ChinaChange.org)
  • New Citizens Movement, a "manifesto" published on May 29, 2012. Chinese English(translated by ChinaChange.org)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b China court sentences Xu Zhiyong to four years in jail BBC News 25 January 2014
  2. ^ "New citizens". The Economist. January 25, 2014. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  3. ^ "Independent candidate elected". China Daily. December 17, 2003. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  4. ^ Without Explanation, China Releases Three Activists. The New York Times.
  5. ^ China Behind the Headlines: Xu Zhiyong
  6. ^ China Digital Times
  7. ^ China Detains Prominent Legal Activist Archived August 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Associated Press: Brother: Chinese activist held for tax evasion
  9. ^ a b Wines, Michael (August 23, 2009). "Without Explanation, China Releases 3 Activists". The New York Times. Retrieved August 25, 2009.
  10. ^ Authority's Official Notice on the Shutdown of OCI (in Chinese)
  11. ^ John Garnaut (August 25, 2009). "Obama behind release of Chinese activists". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved August 25, 2009.
  12. ^ Chris Buckley (August 23, 2013). "Formal Arrest of Advocate Is Approved by China". The New York Times.
  13. ^ "In Beijing, Xu Zhiyong's Closing Statement Channels Freedom, Justice And Love". Huffington Post. January 27, 2014.
  14. ^ "2013 Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. December 29, 2013.

External links[edit]