[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Thursday urged [press release] the Chinese government to drop all politically motivated charges against Xu Zhiyong [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and release the rights activist from prison. Xu, a prominent critic of China's one-party system and founder of the nongovernmental New Citizen's Movement [WSJ backgrounder], was arrested in April and faces five years in prison for organizing a series of small-scale protests to disrupt public order. HRW Asia Director Brad Adams [official profile] cited Xu's official indictment [text] as evidence of the spurious charges against peaceful protesting. Adams went on to state that "the politically motivated character of Xu's prosecution makes a conviction a near certainty if this case goes to trial. Xu's treatment is a test-case for the broader fate of civil society in China under Xi Jinping" [BBC backgrounder]. Xu was placed on house arrest in April, but was taken into custody [JURIST report] in July and formally arrested in August. HRW believes that Xu may go on trial as early as December 28 in order to curb international scrutiny.
The detainment of anti-corruption activists has been a recurrent human rights issue in China. In August Chinese writer, lawyer and human rights advocate Yang Maodong, commonly known by his pen-name Guo Feixiong [HRIC profile], became the second leader, following Xu, of the New Citizens movement to be arrested [JURIST report] on suspicion of disrupting the peace. In June a Chinese court in Huairou sentenced [JURIST report] Liu Hui, brother-in-law of the Nobel Peace Prize winner and democracy activist Liu Xiaobo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], to 11 years in prison on charges of fraud. In May China's Nanjing Intermediate People's Court issued a life sentence [JURIST report] to Huang Sheng, the former provincial deputy governor of Shandong Province, for accepting almost $2 million in bribes from 21 organizations and numerous individuals between 1998 and 2011.