A prominent Chinese activist who criticized President Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic while in hiding has been arrested, a rights group said Tuesday.
Xu Zhiyong, an anti-corruption activist was arrested on Saturday after being on the run since December, according to Amnesty International.
Another source, who spoke to AFP on the condition of anonymity, said Xu had been arrested in the southern city of Guangzhou.
On February 4, Xu released an article calling on Xi to step down and criticised 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.’
‘The coronavirus outbreak shows just how important values like freedom of expression and transparency are – the exact values that Xu has long advocated,’ Yaqiu Wang, China researcher at Human Rights Watch.
‘That he was a fugitive for so many days while continuing to speak out, that in itself was… a kind of challenge to (Chinese authorities),’ said Hua Ze, a long-time friend of Xu who told AFP she lost contact with the Chinese activist on Saturday morning.
According to Mail Online, Xu went into hiding after authorities broke up a December gathering of intellectuals discussing political reform in the eastern coastal city of Xiamen in Fujian province, prior to the coronavirus crisis.
Since President X took power in 2012, China’s ruling Communist Party has arrested several rights lawyers, labour activists and even Marxist students.
The Wuhan coronavirus death toll has reached 1,900 people, with more than 71,000 infected worldwide.