What Xu Zhiyong Stands For

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On the China Beat blog, our former colleague Susan Jakes takes a look at the breadth and boldness of detained legal scholar Xu Zhiyong’s work:

Xu has a knack for seeing what’s possible where others see only futility. In 2003 and again in 2006 he ran as one of China’s handful of independent—that is, not CCP pre-approved—candidates in an election for his district People’s Congress. He not only won by a landslide, but in both of his terms in office has sought to prove through his actions—by providing constituent services, demanding budget reviews, preventing the relocation of the Beijing Zoo and lobbying on behalf of aggrieved dog owners—that the congress was not the parody of a political institution it sometimes seemed to be. “Actually,” he explained, “the People’s Congress has real power. It’s just that people don’t take it seriously.” I interviewed Xu shortly after his first election. When I asked him how he decided to run, he looked at me evenly for a moment before replying. “I ran,” he said, “because the law allows me to.”