China arrests activist who campaigned about leaders' wealth

China arrests activist who campaigned about leaders' wealth
File photo of a smoggy day at Tiananmen, China.

BEIJING, CHINA - Police have arrested one of China's most prominent rights activists who has called for officials to disclose their wealth, his lawyer said on Friday, raising the stakes in the government's crackdown on anti-graft campaigners.

The arrest of Xu Zhiyong, who has pushed for greater civil rights, could trigger an international outcry over Beijing's tightening grip of a fledgling movement. It also exposes shortcomings in the government's drive against corruption.

Western governments have sparred repeatedly with Beijing over human rights and the United States raised Xu's case this month during its annual rights dialogue with China.

Xu, the founder of the "New Citizens' Movement", advocates working within the system to press for change.

On the Internet, he has called on officials to disclose their assets and fellow activists have gone into the streets to urge citizens to combat corruption.

Beijing police arrested Xu on Thursday on a charge of "gathering a crowd to disturb order in a public place", one of Xu's lawyers, Zhang Qingfang, said by telephone.

Xu was detained last month on the same charge. Before that, he had been under house arrest for three months, with no reason given by the authorities. Xu had previously told Reuters that "it could be due to my campaign to push for asset disclosure".

Wang Gongquan, a venture capitalist and an old friend of Xu, said he was shocked at the arrest.

"What I'm shocked about is that the government and the police have gone farther and farther down the wrong road on the matter of Xu Zhiyong," he said.

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