Saturday, 10 August 2013

Defiance Behind Bars

Xu Zhiyong previously on the cover of Esquire
A few days ago human rights activist Xu Zhiyong was filmed behind bars in a detention centre in Beijing. It was courageous for him to do this, and we wonder if he will suffer punishment as a result of his actions.

The identity of the person who filmed the 1:19 minute clip is not known to prevent that person from getting into trouble.

Xu, 40, was arrested on July 16 for "assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place."

His lawyer Liu Weiguo says the charge is baseless, and are detaining him in an effort to silence him. Xu probably got into trouble this time because he was calling for people to join the New Citizens' Movement to demand that government officials publicly declare their assets.

While Chinese President Xi Jinping is calling for the end of corruption in officialdom, it doesn't seem members of the public calling for greater accountability is kosher with the central government.

And so Xu seemed determined to continue to speak out through this video, where he calls on more citizens to stand up and defend their rights in "this age of absurdity".

"No matter how this society [of ours] is, how defeated or how absurd, this society needs brave citizens who can stand up and hold fast to their beliefs, who can take their rights and responsibilities and their dreams seriously," he says into the camera. "I'm proud to put the word 'citizen' before my name, and I hope everyone does the same, putting the word 'citizen' before their name. Let us unite and work together to make our rights as citizens matter, to make our identities as citizens matter -- working together to promote democracy, rule of law, fairness and justice in our country. Surely we can build a free, public-spirited, loving and good China."

While the video was briefly online in China, it has been blocked in the country unless internet users have VPNs to "scale the Great Firewall".

Xu is not a radical person, but someone with good intentions. He first gained attention in 2003 when he was an advocate for the family of Sun Zhigang. Sun was a young man who was beaten to death in a detention centre for vagrants and rural migrants without the proper official documents.

His work on the case shone a spotlight on these people being thrown into these arbitrary detention centres and in the end the government abolished them.

However this time it looks like Xu may have gone too far in provoking the government. His supporters will work hard to get him released, because China needs more people like him to keep reforming for the better.

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