China jails two prominent human rights lawyers for over ten years
Beijing, China — Two prominent Chinese human rights lawyers, including one who had called for leader Xi Jinping to resign, have been jailed for over a decade, an advocacy group and one of the men’s wives said Monday.
Xu Zhiyong and fellow campaigner Ding Jiaxi were convicted of “subversion of state power” following closed-door trials.
Both were leading figures in the New Citizens’ Movement, a civil rights group that called for constitutional reform and criticised government corruption.
Xu, who called for President Xi to step down over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, was jailed for 14 years after a closed-door trial in east China’s Shandong province, advocacy group Human Rights Watch said.
Ding was “jailed for 12 years and deprived of political rights for three years”, his wife Luo Shengchun told AFP, referring to a punishment in China that bars the convicted from holding public office.
Asked for comment by AFP, a court official declined to confirm the jailings.
Civil liberties and freedom of expression have receded even further under Xi’s decade-long tenure, rights groups say.
“The cruelly farcical convictions and sentences meted out to Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi show President Xi Jinping’s unstinting hostility towards peaceful activism,” China researcher at Human Rights Watch Yaqiu Wang said.
Xu’s and Ding’s trials were “riddled with procedural problems and allegations of mistreatment”, the rights group said.
Ding was detained in December 2019 after attending a secret meeting involving human rights activists and lawyers, including Xu in China’s southeast Fujian province.
His wife has said she was “incredibly worried” that he might have been tortured in detention.
Xu, a former law professor, was detained in February 2020 after publishing a series of blog posts blasting Xi for his heavy-handed approach to crises, including the Covid-19 outbreak and protests in Hong Kong.
He had previously served a four-year prison sentence after demanding public officials declare their personal assets.
Observers have regularly raised concerns about due process in China, where the courts have a conviction rate of about 99 percent.