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April 26, 2017

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Chinese activist freed after Tiananmen commemoration fears die down

BEIJING--A leading figure of a small citizen movement in southern China was released on bail on Wednesday, nearly one month after he was taken into police custody, his lawyers said.

Wang Aizhong has been a key figure of the amorphous Southern Street Movement that seeks an end to China's one-party rule and urges its followers to take to the street to make their appeals public.

Wang was detained on May 29, among dozens of activists ahead of the 25th anniversary of a bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in 1989. Authorities had sought to block any commemoration of the event. Many have since been released, although several remain in detention or have been indicted, such as the prominent rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang.

Wang could not be reached Thursday, but his lawyers Wu Kuiming and Zhang Xuezhong confirmed his release.

Zhang said authorities may have failed to find enough evidence to prosecute Wang on criminal charges. He said Wang's release is an "isolated case" and should not be seen as a sign that China is relaxing prosecution against activists.

China has increasingly been using public disorder charges against political dissidents. Most recently, a court in Beijing jailed the legal scholar Xu Zhiyong after convicting him of gathering crowds to disrupt public order, a charge largely stemming from several rallies Xu organized before the Ministry of Education to demand education equality.

"Wang Aizhong has not done anything like that, with which the police can find some legal clauses to charge him," Zhang said. "It shows there are times when police cannot find excuses for prosecution."

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