Critic of Chinese President Xi Jinping, fellow activist set to face stiffer charge, sources say

22-Jan-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

A Chinese former human rights lawyer and an outspoken critic of Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to stand trial soon on the elevated charge of “subversion of state power” after being accused of a lesser offence six months ago, legal sources said. Activists Ding Jiaxi and Xu Zhiyong are being held at a detention centre in Linshu, a small county in east China’s Shandong province, according to Ding’s wife, Luo Shengchun, who lives in the United States.

Three lawyers hired by Luo and Xu’s family met prosecutors in Linyi the city that administers Linshu on Tuesday and asked for permission to see their clients the following day, Luo said.

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“The centre said they would get back to them within 48 hours,” she said. “I can only hope they respect their [Ding's and Xu's] right to meet with their lawyers this time.”

The lawyers Liang Xiaojun, Zhang Lei and Peng Jian said they had been told not to conduct interviews or discuss the cases.

According to legal sources familiar with their cases, both Ding, 53, and Xu, 47, will be tried for “subversion of state power”, a more serious offence than the “inciting subversion” charge they faced six months ago.

The sources said the lawyers had been told there were 40 sets of files linked to the cases, all of which had been labelled as classified, and that they would have to sign a confidentiality agreement before being allowed to read them.

Political analyst Wu Yangwei said he was worried the new charges signalled the prosecutors would be pushing for heavier sentences for the two men, and that declaring the case files classified was meant to muzzle anyone who wanted to speak out on behalf of the activists.

“It is rare to declare the case materials as classified information and this move appears to be aimed at minimising their influence… and there can be no discussions or activism about them,” he said. “Whatever they [Ding and Xu] have done will become nothing.”

The two men were central figures in the ill-fated New Citizens’ Movement a civil-rights group they helped to establish in 2012 to campaign for constitutional reform and the rights of rural children to an education, and against corruption.

Ding lost his lawyer’s licence in 2014 after organising protests against official corruption. Xu, a former university lecturer, spent four years in prison from 2013-17 for causing “public disorder” in campaigning for rural children’s rights to education. Early last year he openly criticised Xi’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.

Ding and Xu were arrested about a year ago after taking part in a meeting with civil rights lawyers and activists in the southeastern city of Xiamen at which they are reported to have discussed the “democratic transition of China”.

Another attendee was human rights lawyer Chang Weiping, who is now being detained in Shaanxi province.

According to Luo, the family has been kept in the dark about Ding’s condition since his arrest and denied any correspondence with him.

She said she had written 21 letters to her husband and asked him to write back in each of them.

“I haven’t got a single reply from him,” she said. “Under Chinese law, a defendant’s right to correspondence is guaranteed even if the letters are censored.”

Luo said also it was puzzling that Ding and Xu were being held in Linshu as neither of them had any connection with the place.

“The only reason I can think of is to make it difficult for the lawyers to meet them,” she said.


Category: China

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