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China arrests activist who criticized Xi over virus

Xu Zhiyong

Police in China have arrested a prominent activist who had been a fugitive for weeks and criticized President Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic while in hiding, a rights group said Tuesday.

 

Anti-corruption activist Xu Zhiyong was arrested on Saturday after being on the run since December, according to Amnesty International.

 

The “Chinese government’s battle against the coronavirus has in no way diverted it from its ongoing general campaign to crush all dissenting voices,” said Patrick Poon, China researcher at Amnesty International, in an emailed statement.


Another source, who spoke to AFP on the condition of anonymity, said Xu had been arrested in the southern city of Guangzhou.


Guangzhou police did not respond to requests for comment.

 

On February 4 Xu released an article calling on Xi to step down and criticized his leadership across a range of issues including the US-China trade war, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests and the coronavirus epidemic, which has now killed nearly 1,900 people.


“Medical supplies are tight, hospitals are filled with patients, and a large number of infected people have no way to be diagnosed,” he wrote. “It’s a mess.”

 

China’s ruling Communist Party has severely curtailed civil liberties since Xi took power in 2012, rounding up rights lawyers, labor activists and even Marxist students.

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