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China releases activist Xu Zhiyong

Xu Zhiyong, an eminent rights activist, has been freed by Chinese authorities. His release comes days after the death of Liu Xiaobo, a dissident and Nobel peace laureate who was not allowed a cancer treatment abroad.

Zhang Qingfang, Xu Zhiyong's attorney, confirmed Saturday that the authorities have released the activist, who in 2014 was sentenced to four years in prison for helping organize anti-government protests.

Xu's imprisonment had drawn international condemnation.

Despite his release, it is unclear whether Xu would be allowed to move freely in the country or travel abroad. Chinese authorities closely monitor the movement of dissidents even after they are released on bail or pardoned by courts.

Watch video 00:28

Chinese activist sentenced to jail | Journal - The News Program on DW

Zhang told Reuters news agency he had brought Xu up to speed with "events on the outside," including the death of fellow activist and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo on July 13.

Read: Opinion: The other China

Beijing was slammed by international rights groups, the Nobel committee and world leaders for not allowing Liu to travel abroad for a cancer treatment.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had appealed to Chinese authorities to release Liu on humanitarian grounds.

Read: Liu Xiaobo, China's dissident 'without enemies'

Crackdown on dissidents

In 2014, Xu, a trained lawyer, was sent to jail for disrupting public order after staging a rally, in which banners were displayed calling on authorities to disclose their assets.

The 43-year-old is the founder of the New Citizens Movement, a loose activist network that has campaigned for the rights of children in rural areas to be educated in cities and against official corruption.

Xu had rejected his trial as "very unfair."

Xu's trial was the most high-profile legal proceeding against a dissident in China since 2009, when Liu Xiaobo was put on trial for subversion for his involvement in a petition urging the overthrow of one-party rule.

Read: Opinion: China's anti-graft drive lacks transparency

Watch video 00:47

China goes all out censoring online reaction to Xiaobo death

shs/ng  (Reuters, AP)

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