BEIJING: A prominent Chinese anticorruption activist who founded a movement calling for greater transparency among high-ranking officials was freed Saturday after a four-year prison sentence, authorities announced.
“Xu Zhiyong was freed following the end of his sentence on July 15, 2017,” the Beijing municipal administration of prisons said on its website, adding that “members of his family came to meet him” at the jail.
Xu, 44, was arrested in July 2013 and sentenced in early 2014 to four years in prison for organizing an “illegal gathering with the purpose of disturbing public order.” His trial took place in Beijing under heavy security.
The legal scholar was one of the original members of the New Citizens Movement, a loose network whose members held peaceful protests in Beijing and other cities.
The group organized meetings and discussions on subjects including equality in education and corruption among the Chinese elite.
Xu tried to gather public support for a movement against corruption, demanding more transparency over the assets of senior officials, a sensitive topic in China.
He and a dozen members of the New Citizens Movement were arrested and hauled before the authorities for demonstrations held in 2013.
“The authorities must not continue to harass or intimidate Xu Zhiyong or his family, and instead let him again enjoy the freedom that was unjustly taken from him,” said Amnesty International’s China researcher Patrick Poon.
Authorities launched an anti-corruption campaign after President Xi Jinping came to power at the end of 2012 but they do not want civil society, over which it is tightening control, to take part. AFP