The Chinese New Citizens Movement's fight for constitutional freedom continues to face fierce opposition from China's new president, Xi Jinping.
Not only did the Chinese government arrest the movement’s leader, Xu Zhinyong, in July for "assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place," but the New York Times reported that another 160 protesters like Xu have been arrested over the last year.
What makes Xu such a dangerous threat? His rights campaign has centered on “anti-corruption”—fighting against abuses such as forced relocation of citizens, rape, beatings, and even a contaminated milk scandal.
If Xi had exposed himself as a dictator, ready to squelch rebellion, Xu’s arrest would have been expected. On the contrary, Xi’s actions contradict his own proclamations, according to China Daily:
[Xi] stressed zero tolerance of graft and promised to seriously punish every corrupt official being caught.
"Every CPC official should keep in mind that all dirty hands will be caught," [Xi] said. "Senior officials should hold Party disciplines in awe and stop taking chances."
Why is Xi bothering with anti-corruption claims when he seems to be feverishly working against Xu and other activists? Despite the New Citizens Movement’s hope that their new president would support change, it is clear that Xi has every intention of desperately clinging to power.
Xu’s wife recently gave birth to their baby daughter, while Xu has been behind bars. His lawyer said Xu should be going to trial soon, but no date has been set. Regardless, they are skeptical that witnesses will be allowed to testify. The minimum five-year sentence is a daunting reality for this new father.
Despite activism across the globe, the curse of communism still strangles Chinese citizens. A government promising one thing and providing another? Maybe Xi is more Western than we thought.