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Bo Xilai trial to begin on Thursday: China state media
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Aug 18, 2013

China detains prominent rights activist: group
Beijing (AFP) Aug 17, 2013 - Chinese police have detained a prominent human rights activist, signalling the continuation of a recent crackdown on dissent, an advocacy group said on Saturday.

Police in the southern city of Guangzhou arrested Yang Maodong, an advocate for legal reform, on a charge of "assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place", US-based group Chinese Human Rights Defenders said on a blog.

The group posted a photograph of a notification document for Yang's arrest, apparently issued on August 8. Yang, known by the pen-name Guo Feixiong, has campaigned for freedom of speech and aided villagers who accused local officials of corruption.

Yang's arrest comes less than an month after Beijing police detained human rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong, who had publicly called for the release of other activists arrested for demanding that government officials disclose their assets.

The latest arrest signals "the continued repression of human rights activists by Chinese authorities", Chinese Human Rights Defenders said.

Rights groups have reported a crackdown on political activists since President Xi Jinping was formally appointed in March.

At least 24 activists have been detained since late March, Chinese Human Rights Defenders said in a statement last month.

China's ruling Communist party has launched previous crackdowns on activists demanding political change, arresting dozens in 2011 after calls for anti-government street protests emerged online.

Police in the Tianhe district of Guangzhou, where Yang is said to have been detained, did not answer phone calls on Saturday.

Disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai will stand trial from Thursday, state media said on Sunday.

Bo, once one of China's most powerful political leaders, is accused of bribery, graft and abuse of power, Xinhua news agency said, citing the court in Jinan in eastern China.

"The open trial will start at 8:30 am (0030 GMT) on August 22 at its 5th courtroom," Xinhua said.

The downfall of Bo -- who ran the western megacity of Chongqing -- marked China's biggest political scandal in decades.

His glittering career came crashing down last year amid allegations that his wife -- later convicted of murder -- was involved in the death of a British businessman and that he had sought to block the police investigation.

Bo was indicted last month on the charges.

The scandal emerged ahead of a once-a-decade leadership transition in which Bo had been considered a candidate for the Politburo Standing Committee -- China's most powerful body.

The respected current affairs magazine Caijing last month said the 25-million-yuan ($4.1 million) corruption charges against Bo stem from his time running the smaller city of Dalian in the 1990s, not Chongqing. It did not cite a source.

Analysts say that given the length of his career and the high positions he reached it seemed implausible corruption would only affect Bo's earlier and less-powerful posts.

They say determining how to handle Bo's trial would have required tough negotiations among the political elite, which can effectively dictate judicial proceedings.

From Dalian -- a city of seven million people -- Bo went on to run the national ministry of commerce and then Chongqing metropolis with a population of 30 million.

The abuse of power allegation relates to his attempt last year to stop his Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun investigating the role of Bo's wife Gu Kailai in the death of British businessman Neil Heywood, Caijing said.

Fearing retribution from his boss, Wang fled to a US consulate in the city of Chengdu in February 2012, disclosing the tangled events that eventually led to Bo's downfall.

Bo was detained a month later and Gu was eventually handed a suspended death sentence for murder.

President Xi Jinping has pledged a crackdown on rampant official corruption, but analysts doubt how effective it can be without upending powerful vested interests.


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