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October 21, 2013

China Arrests Businessman-Turned-Activist Ahead of UN Rights Review

by Da Hai Han

Chinese police have formally arrested a prominent businessman who has supported a civil society group targeted by authorities this year. A lawyer for Wang Gongquan confirmed Monday he is being charged with gathering crowds to disrupt public order.

Wang, who has been in custody since mid-September, is a key supporter of the New Citizens Movement, which advocates the rule of law and greater public participation in political issues. More than a dozen members of the group have been detained or arrested this year.

Chen Ziming, a pro-democracy scholar, has signed a petition along with 18 others calling for Wang's release. Chen told VOA's Mandarin service that Wang has not broken any laws.

"What he has done is in conformity with China's constitution and laws. If the Chinese government wants the country to have the rule of law, then each case should demonstrate a commitment to the rule of law," said Ziming.

The arrest comes a day before China's human rights record is set to be reviewed by the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

At the foreign ministry briefing in Beijing Monday, spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China takes the U.N. review very seriously and will send a large delegation to Geneva.

"China will give the truth of our efforts and progress in human rights, and we look forward to constructive criticism. We will kindly accept the constructive criticisms and work towards a better state for Chinese human rights. However, we do not welcome the maligned criticisms. All in all, we look forward to a candid communication in Geneva," she said.

Beijing has been criticized by many human rights activists for its treatment of pro-democracy dissidents, as well as protesters in Tibet and Xinjiang. The United States says it is concerned by reports that Beijing has been preventing activist groups from participating in the U.N. review.

Nike Ching contributed to this report from Washington.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.