[JURIST] Chinese human rights group Gongmeng [advocacy website, in Chinese] announced Thursday that its co-founder, prominent human rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong was arrested [press release, in Chinese] at his home early Wednesday morning and has not been heard from since. The group has also been unable to reach a second staff member, Zhuang Lu. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch [advocacy websites] have expressed concern over Xu and Zhuang's detentions, calling for their immediate release. China's recent measures against human rights lawyers are viewed by many as an attempt by the Chinese government to quash dissidence as the 60th anniversary of Communist rule approaches in October.
Zhiyong's arrest comes less than two weeks after Chinese officials from Beijing's Civil Affairs Bureau shut down [press release, in Chinese; JURIST report] Gongmeng's legal research center. Officials confiscated computers and other equipment, telling staff that the center was not properly registered. A lawyer for Gongmeng said that the research center was part of Gongmeng, which is properly registered. A statement from Gongmeng called the Civil Affairs Bureau's actions "illegal." Gongmeng had recently gained notoriety by representing the families of children who were sickened by tainted milk [JURIST news archive]. Earlier this month, the Chinese government suspended the licenses of 53 lawyers [press release, in Chinese] in Beijing, including prominent human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, for failing to pass an assessment or failing to register.