chinese court hands lengthy prison terms to rights lawyers in years long crackdown
In the latest move in a lengthy crackdown on civil society by Chinese leader Xi Jinping, two prominent human rights lawyers were sentenced Monday to more than ten years each in prison, Reuters quoted a relative and rights groups as saying.
Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi are known for their noteworthy roles in the New Citizens Movement, which sought relatively more transparency into the wealth of officials and for the people across the country to be allowed to exercise their civil rights as written in the constitution.
The two were put on trial last June on charges of state subversion, relatives told the news agency at the time. 55-year-old Ding’s wife Luo Shengchun said their lawyers aren’t allowed to publish court verdict documents and they do not dare to reveal under what charges they were sentenced.
She lives in the US and has pursued her husband’s case with US State Department officials.
While Ding received a jail term of 12 years, 50-year-old Xu was sentenced to 14 years, Luo said, adding she will keep pressing for information and will not let the two be put behind bars so easily.
The rights lawyers had been held for over three years. While Ding was arrested in 2019 shortly after attending a gathering with other lawyers and activists, Xu was taken by police in 2020 after going into hiding. The latter is a close friend of Ding and had once written a searing open letter calling on Xi to resign.
Following his arrest, Ding was routinely tortured for a number of months in order to extract a confession, his lawyer Peng Jian told the court.
Their trials behind closed doors involved “procedural problems and allegations of mistreatment,” New York-based Human Rights Watch said.
China has dramatically cracked down on dissent since Xi took office in 2012. The country isn’t fond of criticism of its human rights record, saying the jailed rights lawyers and activists are criminals who didn’t abide by the law.