China Detains Activist Who Accused Xi of Coronavirus Cover-Up

Published: February 18, 2020  Updated: February 22, 2020 at 12:35 am EST

He portrayed China’s leader, Xi Jinping, as hungry for power. He accused Mr. Xi of trying to cover up the coronavirus outbreak in central China. In one of his most daring writings, he urged Mr. Xi to resign, saying, “You’re just not smart enough.”

Then, over the weekend, Xu Zhiyong, a prominent Chinese legal activist, went silent. The authorities in the southern city of Guangzhou detained him on Saturday, according to Mr. Xu’s friends, after he spent nearly two months in hiding. His girlfriend, Li Qiaochu, a social activist, went missing on Sunday, Mr. Xu’s friends said.

The activist is the latest critic to be caught up in Mr. Xi’s far-reaching efforts to limit dissent in China. The crackdown, which has ensnared scores of activists, lawyers, journalists and intellectuals, is likely to intensify as the ruling Communist Party comes under broad attack for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, one of its biggest political challenges in years.

Mr. Xu, a 46-year-old former university lecturer, has long railed against government corruption and social injustice in China. He went into hiding in December as the police began rounding up human rights activists who met with him in the eastern city of Xiamen.

While in hiding, Mr. Xu continued to publish blunt critiques of Mr. Xi on social media, accusing him of leading a dictatorship.

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