A prominent human rights advocate was arrested by Chinese authorities after he called on President Xi Jinping to step down. Xu Zhiyong, a Chinese citizen and legal scholar criticised Xi Jinping for his handling over the Coronavirus outbreak and the pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong.
According to media reports, Xu published an article on February 4 on the website of the New Citizens Movement, a group he founded in 2012. Xu had been on the run since December last year after attending a gathering in Xiamen, which focused on human rights in China.
As per media reports, Xu's friend Hua Ze said that four other people who attended the gathering were arrested previously. Xu in 2014 was sentenced to four years in prison for his work with the group New Citizens Movement, which called on Chinese officials to disclose their wealth. According to a US-based Human Rights Watch researcher Yaqiu Wang, Xu's girlfriend has been unreachable since Saturday. Media reports suggest that Xu had been publishing articles criticising China's handling of coronavirus outbreak that has claimed more than 1,700 lives so far and has infected over 70,000 people.
As per reports, Xu in his article took on Xi Jinping as he blamed him for the alleged mishandling of coronavirus cases as the hospitals are overcrowded and there is a shortage of medical supplies. Xu further wrote that President Xi Jinping should step down and give way.
Freedom of speech in China has been a major concern for many international human rights watch bodies, including the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC). According to various media reports, China has been curbing freedom of speech more extensively than it has ever before and many blame Xi Jinping for the current situation in the country. However, the People's Republic of China has claimed that its existing policies and enforcement measures are sufficient to guard against human rights abuses.
(With inputs from agencies)