China steps up prosecution of activists who called for political change – Radio Free Asia

Chinese authorities are stepping up charges against two prominent New Citizens Movement activists arrested after an informal gathering of dissidents in the southeastern port city of Xiamen. december 2019.

Police are currently investigating movement founder Xu Zhiyong and human rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi for “subversion of state power”, rather than lesser charge of “incitement to subvert state power. “.

“Subversion of state power” carries a minimum prison sentence of 10 years, with no upper limit on the severity of the sentence, when an accused is found to have played a leading role in the events used as evidence.

Those who are considered “participants” can be jailed for three to ten years.

Xu and Ding are both detained at Linshu Detention Center in eastern Shandong Province, whose state security police are conducting a nationwide operation targeting those who attended the Xiamen rally.

Their lawyers Liang Xiaojun, Zhang Lei and Peng Jian have yet to be allowed to meet with their clients and are currently awaiting a response to their latest request for a meeting, they told RFA.

Xu and Ding’s cases have been transferred to the procuratorate for examination and prosecution, paving the way for a trial, but lawyers have not yet had access to the files.

“When we went to the prosecution to investigate, they said the charges were of subversion of state power, which is a very serious charge,” Liang told RFA. “We were very surprised by this, because the [lesser] after all, it was the police who laid the charge. “

“We haven’t read the files yet, and all we can do is wait now,” he said.

Torture and sleep deprivation

Ding’s wife Luo Shengchun said that Ding was subjected to torture, including sleep deprivation during a previous period of detention in Yantai City, Shandong, China. january 2020.

“Five people took turns interrogating him for seven days and seven nights, and prevented him from sleeping,” she said. “They deprived him of sleep for a long period, about two weeks, during which time he was interrogated extensively.”

“He only had one steamed bun per meal: another trick they used was to reduce his water intake to 600ml per day,” she said.

Luo said that Ding and Xu’s files mysteriously reappeared on the detention center’s computer system this month, after staff claimed they were unable to find them.

“At least the lawyers were able to request to meet with them, and they did not claim that these people did not exist,” she said.

Meanwhile, fellow human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng was shortlisted for this year’s Martin Ennals Human Rights Award after requesting an article for amendments to the Chinese constitution in 2018.

Yu was sentenced to four years in prison for “inciting to subvert state power.”

Prices support struggling lawyers

His wife Xu Yan said his appointment would show her support for struggling Chinese human rights lawyers.

“Yu Wensheng has proposed amendments to the constitution,” said Xu Yan. “He has also represented and defended many lawyers involved in the july 2015 repression [on rights lawyers]. “

“For that, he lost his freedom,” Xu Yan said, adding that it could encourage other human rights lawyers in difficult circumstances.

Xu received the 2020 PEN / Barbey Freedom to Write Award from PEN America in december 2020, and the organization called for his immediate release.

“Chinese officials are choosing this time to step up the crackdown, using Xu to signify their insensitivity to global pressure to comply with international standards of free speech,” Suzanne Nossel, CEO of the group, said in a statement.

“Chinese leaders fear Xu and other writers and advocates who dare to challenge the state’s official account of its handling of COVID-19 and denounce Beijing’s deteriorating human rights record,” she said. declared.

“Xu must be released immediately, and we call on the newly inaugurated Biden administration to send a strong signal prioritizing his freedom and that of other dissidents at risk as they engage with China.”

On December 26, 2019, human rights lawyers Ding Jiaxi and Huang Zhiqiang and activists Dai Zhenya, Li Yingjun and Zhang Zhongshun were arrested by police in their hometown, while the human rights lawyer male and university professor Liu Shuqing, 43, was arrested by police in Shandong. the capital of Jinan province on December 31, suspected of “subversion of state power”.

Xu Zhiyong, who attended the Xiamen meeting and then wrote an online essay calling on Xi to resign, fled, hiding in a friend’s apartment in southern Guangdong province. He was eventually found using facial recognition and surveillance footage.

Reported by Gao Feng and Chingman for the Mandarin and Cantonese services of FRG. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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