Human Rights Attorney Arrested For Tax Evasion

August 19, 2009 4:19 pm Last Updated: August 21, 2009 4:19 pm

Chinese human rights attorney Xu Zhiyong was officially arrested for tax evasion on August 18, two weeks after police took him from his home. Xu is the co-founder of human rights organization Gongmeng, also known as the “Open Constitution Initiative” (OCI) which has taken up politically sensitive cases in China.

Xu was taken from his home by police at the end of July. Xu’s arrest is one of several sudden arrests of activists and lawyers in the lead up to October 1st—the 60th anniversary of the communist takeover of China.

Amnesty International (AI) condemned authorities for arresting attorneys such as Xu ostensibly on charges of tax evasion, and have demanded his immediate release. AI has said that the arrests are merely an excuse to shut down the OCI.

Li Xiongbing, an attorney for the OCI told the BBC that he hopes the judicial procedure involving his colleagues can obey the law and not violate their rights.

Li added that as an attorney for the same organization, he has also been warned and threatened by Chinese authorities, who sternly requested that he separate himself from the OCI. He expressed great sadness for what he said was the regime’s reckless violation of the law.

The OCI was fined for five times the amount of the taxes they were alleged to have evaded, and the case was passed to the judicial department which lead Xu’s arrest. Xu was scheduled to meet tax officials on July 30, the day after he was detained.

Li believes that the tax evasion charges as well as the fine against the OCI are dubious. Formal notification of the unpaid taxes has yet to be issue and Li says the way the case has been handled is a clear violation of the law.

OCI is composed of scholars, attorneys and human rights activists. It has provided legal assistance to victims of the melamine-tainted milk debacle and similar cases. The OCI became well known after Xu defended Sun Zhigang, a 27-year-old university graduate who died in police custody following a beating by authorities. However, the organization was not allowed to register as a non-governmental organization, and is instead registered as a corporation.

Read the original Chinese article.