China jails prominent rights lawyers for over 10 years

Beijing, Apr 10 (EFE).- Two prominent Chinese rights lawyers were jailed for more than 10 years after being found guilty of subversion, Human Rights Watch reported on Monday.

Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi, both members of the New Citizens movement — a network of activists calling for civil rights, transparency and exposing government corruption — were jailed by a Shandong court to 14 years and 12 years in prison respectively on “subversion of state power” charges.

“Their trials were conducted behind closed doors and riddled with procedural problems and allegations of mistreatment,” HRW denounced after the trial on Monday.

Ding, 55, was arrested in the southeastern city of Xiamen in December 2019 after both activists had taken part in an event where rights activists and lawyers discussed human rights in China.

Xu, who went on to criticize president Xi Jinping’s handling of the pandemic and the Beijing clampdown on anti-government protests in Hong Kong, was arrested in February 2020 in Guangzhou where he had gone into hiding.

According to Amnesty International, both activists were detained under “residential surveillance under designated location,” where they were allegedly tortured.

In a report published in February 2021, AI raised concerns that Xu was subjected to long hours of interrogation, not allowed to clean himself and tied to a restraining device known as the “tiger chair”.

The rights group reported a similar ill-treatment of Ding who was held incommunicado for over a year after his arrest in 2019.

Chinese authorities charged both Ding and Xu with subversion of state power in 2021 after concluding an investigation into both lawyers.

By then, both activists had spent several years in prison previously on other charges related to public order and disturbance.

Xu was imprisoned from 2014 to 2018 and Ding served three years from 2013 to 2016.

“Beijing’s treatment of the country’s best-known human rights defenders should be a reality check for foreign leaders rushing to return to business as usual with Beijing,” Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said.

“The international community needs to stand by those who are paying the highest price by fighting for the rights of everyone in China,” Wang added. EFE


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