Wednesday, November 30

‘This is not justice’: Chinese activists detained for two years awaiting trial | China


As millions of Chinese families gather this week to celebrate the arrival of the year of the tiger, Luo Shengchun awaits news of the fate of her husband, Ding Jiaxi, a human rights lawyer.

“This is the third year that our family has not celebrated the Chinese New Year. I don’t know what it means to celebrate the new year now,” said Luo, who now lives in self-imposed exile in New York. “It is beyond devastating for my family. My husband has not done anything illegal. Why were we deprived of a normal life?

Ding was arrested on December 26, 2019 and charged with subversion of state power on January 20 last year. Last February, Amnesty International raised the alarm for allegations of torture.

Before Christmas, Luo was told that her husband and another activist, Xu Zhiyong, who was arrested on February 15, 2020 after two months on the run, could finally be sentenced sometime between Christmas and New Year, a tactic that authorities often use. It didn’t happen.

This week, Luo was told that the expected harsh sentence may not be handed down until May, two months after the conclusion of the Winter Olympics which start on Friday.

Analysts say both activists are expected to be charged with taking part in a covert meeting of 20 rights activists in the southern city of Xiamen in December 2019. More than 10 people linked to the meeting have been charged or detained.

Before being treated as a dissident, Xu was a high-profile legal scholar who founded the New Citizens Movement in 2010, a loose network of activists advocating for greater government transparency to combat corruption. And Ding was a central member of the movement.

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In 2013, both men were arrested after signing a high-profile open letter urging China’s leaders to reveal their wealth for public scrutiny. The following year, Xu received a four-year prison sentence and Ding three and a half years.

Luo Shengchun a poster in New York calling for the release of her husband, Ding Jiaxi
Luo Shengchun a poster in New York calling for the release of her husband, Ding Jiaxi Photography: Luo Shengchun

In recent months, the case of the two activists has been the subject of discussion in Chinese human rights circles. Analysts say a harsh sentence would show China’s growing intolerance of any signs of dissent.

“While we don’t know what exactly Xu, Ding and others discussed during their meetings, it seems that what they discussed struck a nerve with the Chinese government, probably with Xi Jinping himself,” said Patrick Poon, adviser to The 29 Principles. a UK based NGO supporting downtrodden human rights lawyers.

“The government’s purpose is to silence prominent dissidents like them in order to scare other dissidents,” Poon said, adding that the potential sentence would certainly send a chilling message to other Chinese activists. “Some dissidents may now need to rethink what they should say online and offline before making politically sensitive comments.”

One of Xu’s lawyers, Liang Xiaojun, had his legal license revoked on December 16. In a December 21 Twitter post, Liang said authorities accused him of posting speeches on social media, including Twitter, which is blocked in China, that endanger national security.

William Nee, research and advocacy coordinator for China Human Rights Defenders, said the trials would be a “sham farce.” “It is very clear that the government’s case against Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi is based on their political views, that is, a conception of a new form of democratic citizenship in China,” he said. “China has claimed to be a ‘full process democracy’ in recent months, but the prosecution of Ding and Xu will highlight how absurd that claim to be a democracy really is.”

Luo said that while her husband’s fate hung in the balance, the uncertainty of the past few years had made her an advocate. “I will continue to express my concern and my campaign. Over the last decade, the authorities have become increasingly insatiable. This is not justice. Not even a hint of that.


www.theguardian.com

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