Rights Activist Xu Zhiyong Arrested In China Amid Crackdown On Dissent Friends of Xu tell NPR that the prominent legal and civil rights activist was arrested on Feb. 15 in southern China. Xu had managed to evade authorities tracking him for nearly two months.
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Rights Activist Xu Zhiyong Arrested In China Amid Crackdown On Dissent

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Rights Activist Xu Zhiyong Arrested In China Amid Crackdown On Dissent

Rights Activist Xu Zhiyong Arrested In China Amid Crackdown On Dissent

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NOEL KING, HOST:

A prominent Chinese legal activist has been arrested after spending 50 days on the run from Chinese authorities. NPR's Emily Feng brought us his story.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: How Xu Zhiyong managed to evade capture for nearly two months in a country laced with facial recognition cameras and digital surveillance is still unclear. What is clear, his friends tell NPR, is that Xu was ready for when he inevitably was caught in southern China on the evening of February 15. Hua Ze, a film director based in New Jersey, said Xu left her videos to post for after he disappeared.

HUA ZE: (Through interpreter) He knew he was going to be arrested sooner or later. He knew his freedom was dangerous to authorities.

FENG: Xu helped found the New Citizens' Movement, an influential coalition that called for rule of law and civil rights protections, work that earned him a four-year jail sentence in 2014. His life as a fugitive began December 26, as one by one, nearly a dozen of the 20 or so participants of an activists' dinner meeting he'd attended disappeared. Here's Hua again.

HUA: (Through interpreter) The meetings' contents were not secret. It was only because such a group of controversial personalities got together that authorities took notice.

FENG: While on the run, Xu published a steady stream of political commentary online. He taunted President Xi Jinping, who he deemed, quote, "helpless" in the face of a coronavirus outbreak. This calamity could only happen without democracy and freedom of speech, he wrote in a post on Wednesday - it would be his last.

Emily Feng, NPR News, Beijing.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE SONG, "BROTHERS ON A HOTEL BED")

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