Human Rights in China (HRIC) has received an open letter requesting that President George W. Bush take advantage of his upcoming visit to China to bring up the case of Xu Zhengqing, who was recently sentenced to three years in prison as a result of his attempt to commemorate deceased former leader Zhao Zhiyang.
The letter was written by Xu Yongdao, the father of Xu Zhengqing, a long-time petitioner in Shanghai. Xu was detained in Beijing on January 29 while attempting to attend a memorial service for Zhao Zhiyang. Authorities claim that Xu caused disorder on a public bus by failing to pay his fare, and later on the train back to Shanghai by shouting that he had been beaten, causing an “incident” that congested the train corridor for less than an hour. However, other petitioners say that the bus broke down before they could pay their fares, and that on the train back to Shanghai they saw Xu seriously injured after being assaulted by police. At Xu’s trial on September 13, the prosecution produced no evidence in support of the official allegations, acts which would not normally subject individuals to prolonged detention. Nevertheless, on October 17 Xu was sentenced to three years in prison on a charge of “disrupting public order.”
Xu Yongdao says in his letter that the authorities have targeted Xu Zhengqing because of his activities defending the rights of himself and others. In particular, Xu Zhengqing has assisted disadvantaged groups in legal actions that have brought him into conflict with powerful individuals in Shanghai. Xu Yongdao says that prior to his arrest, Xu Zhengqing had been threatened on a number of occasions. The full text of Xu Yongdao’s letter is attached to the Chinese version of this press advisory.