Human Rignts Lawyers' Database

Xu Zhiyong (许志永)

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Work Location


Date of Birth


Current Status

Under Surveillance


Xu, a legal scholar and one of the founders of Open Constitution Initiative (OCI), received his doctoral degree in law from Peking University in 2002.

Together with Teng Biao and Yue Jianglian, Xu petitioned to the NPCSC in request of the abolition of the inhumane Custody and Repatriation Regulation, after the turmoil caused by the death of university student Sun Zhigang in a detention centre in Guangzhou in 2003. Their petitions led to huge response in and out of China, and Premier Wen Jiabao signed the decree to abolish the regulation.

In 2005, when lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s law firm was forced by the Beijing Ministry of Justice to shut down for one year as penalty due to political reasons, Xu and Lawyer Li Heping represented Gao. In the same year, Xu took part in a few human rights cases which had significant impacts in China and overseas, including the home church leader Cai Zhuohua case, the Shaanbei oilfield case which involved deprivation of property, and the violent birth control case in Shandong. The birth control case is an example illustrating that Xu and other human rights lawyers, including Teng Biao, Li Heping, Li Subin, Jiang Tianyong and Li Chunfu, resisted the authority and protected human rights. They carried out independent investigation and gathered evidence in Linyi of Shandong, and disclosed the results to public and the central government. They also became the defence lawyer for Chen Guangcheng, the barefoot lawyer who first disclosed such scandals. They were obstructed, beaten and detained during the incident.

In 2007, Xu co-founded the OCI, striving for rule of law in China. In 2008, Xu published a few articles, which disclosed first-hand information of the Beijing“black jails”, places where the petitioners to Beijing were kept in custody. In the same year, Xu represented the victims of Sanlu contaminated milk powder, which caused the death of at least 6 infants and illness of hundreds of thousands of infants to claim damages.

The state secretary of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications once warned Xu that if he continued with his human rights activities, he would lose his teaching post and even his liberty.

In 29th July 2009, Xu was detained for tax evasion. The treasurer of OCI, Zhuang Lu, was also taken away. OCI was imposed a fine of 1.46 million RMB and was outlawed. He was released on bail on 23rd August 2009, but he was taken away in June 2011 for his petition for equal rights to education.


Cases handled

2008       Sanlu contaminated milk powder case

2005       House church leader Cai Zhuohua case

2005       Shaanbei oilfield case

2005      Shandong violent birth control case

2004       Economic crime of Cheng Yizhong and Yu Huafeng, the ex-editor and ex-manager of Southern Metropolis Daily

2003      Petition of three doctors

2003       Sun Dawu case of allegedly raising funds from the public illegally