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China Arrests Lawyer For Advocating Democratic Elections Online

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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter
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A human rights lawyer in China was abruptly arrested Friday morning after calling on the Communist Part to reform and enact democratic elections in an online blog post, the Associated Press reported.

Yu Wensheng was waiting to take his 13-year-old son to school when Chinese police arrested him, causing his son to run panicking to his mother, according to the AP. This is the third time Yu has been arrested. He was detained and tortured for three months in 2014, and was arrested again in 2015, only to be released a day later after his story was widely publicized.

“I don’t know anything. We don’t know the charges, or who took him, or which department has him right now, as the police haven’t given us any information,” Xu Yan, his wife, said.

She added that while her husband’s statements were protected by constitutional rights to free speech, making such statements online is illegal. Yu may not get off as easily as he did in 2015, however, as Xu suspects Chinese police anticipated the publicity this time.

“The authorities already know that a lot of people are watching, but they went ahead and detained him. They did it, even expecting the attention they’d get,” Xu said. “I don’t know anything. We don’t know the charges, or who took him, or which department has him right now, as the police haven’t given us any information.”

Yu’s post did not use inflammatory language and was hardly radical by Western standards, writing only “The president, the head of state, is basically appointed without any meaningful election. It has no credibility for the country, for civil society and for countries across the world.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping has consolidated his power significantly since he took office in 2012. The National Congress of the Communist Party of China voted unanimously in October to incorporate his political philosophy into the national constitution, a level of power rivaled only by Mao Zedong.

“Anyone challenging Xi Jinping can now be seen as committing a political crime,” Nicholas Bequelin, the regional director for East Asia with Amnesty International, told The New York Times. “I think that is very different from what everybody understood before.”

Some observers suspect that the Chinese president may attempt to stay in power after the end of his second term. It is unclear whether Xi has privately selected his successor, but it is certain that he has amassed more power than almost all of his predecessors, making him one of the most powerful Chinese leaders to rule the country in decades.

Xi’s power and vision for his country suggests that China may become more assertive in pursuing its national interests when dealing with other states in the global community.

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