U.S. Ambassador Locke Concerned Xu Zhiyong Trial Is Retribution

U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke said he is “deeply concerned” that the trial this month of human-rights lawyer and activist Xu Zhiyong is retribution for his efforts to expose government corruption.

“I am deeply concerned that the Jan. 22 trial of Chinese legal scholar Xu Zhiyong and the prosecution of other good-governance advocates are retribution for their public campaigns to expose official corruption and for the peaceful expression of their views,” Locke wrote in an e-mailed statement.

Xu faced trial on Jan. 22 and the court hasn’t announced a verdict. He was detained in July on accusations of bringing together a crowd to disturb public order. Xu helped start a group called the New Citizens’ Movement that met across the country with the aim of fighting corruption and seeking greater asset disclosure. More than a dozen associates of Xu have also been detained.

“The United States government calls on Chinese authorities to release Xu and other political prisoners immediately, to cease any restrictions on their freedom of movement, and to guarantee them the protections and freedoms to which they are entitled under China’s international human rights commitments,” Locke said in the e-mailed statement.

Locke also said he was concerned that Chinese police are mistreating foreign journalists trying to cover the trial.

“I urge Chinese authorities to take measures to ensure that foreign reporters working in China are able to carry out their journalistic responsibilities in accordance with internationally recognized conventions,” he said.

Xu’s trial at Beijing’s No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court ended on Jan. 22 and he’s now waiting for the verdict, for which no date is set, Zhang Qingfang, Xu’s lawyer, said in a phone interview yesterday. Xu said he doesn’t feel he’s guilty, and that his actions were for the good of the nation, Zhang said.

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