Beijing Police Release Crusading Lawyer

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This weekend authorities released Xu Zhiyong, the lawyer who was arrested last month in an investigation into the taxes of the legal research group he heads. Zhuang Lu, an assistant, was also let out of jail, as was a Uighur economist who was arrested after deadly rioting in western Xinjiang region, AP reported.

Xu’s group, the Open Constitution Initiative (or Gongmeng in Chinese), is known for representing clients like the families of children sickened by tainted milk powder, or a woman who was accused of killing a government official in apparent self defense. He represents a moderate line of political reformers in China whose goal is not to overthrow the system but to make it live up to its promise of rule of law.

While Xu and Zhuang may still face charges in the tax case, their release on bail signals a slight relaxation of the pressure against the group. Gongmeng had had difficulties contesting or repaying the $200,000 in tax penalties it was said to owe because Xu was unable to sign documents or appear at hearings for much of his detention.