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Home ยป China Jails Prominent Legal Activists Xu Zhiyong And Ding Jiaxi

China Jails Prominent Legal Activists Xu Zhiyong And Ding Jiaxi

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Xu Zhiyong – pictured third from left – was handed a 14-year jail term

By Nicholas Yong

BBC News, Singapore

Two prominent Chinese activists have been jailed for subversion after more than three years in detention.

The wife of lawyer Ding Jiaxi tweeted that he was handed a 12-year jail term by a court in Shandong province.

She added that the other activist, legal scholar Xu Zhiyong, was jailed for 14 years. Their closed-door trial took place in one day in June 2022.

They were separately detained in 2019 and 2020 as part of a sprawling crackdown on legal activists.

A Human Rights Watch spokesman described their convictions as “cruelly farcical” and called for their sentences to be immediately quashed.

In 2010, Mr Ding and Mr Xu co-founded the New Citizens’ Movement, which campaigns for civil rights and government transparency.

The pair were first arrested in 2013 for their roles in protests calling for equal social and educational benefits for migrant workers in Beijing.

They are among the most high-profile dissidents to fall afoul of Chinese authorities.

In a submission to the Shandong court, Mr Ding’s lawyer said the 56-year-old had been subjected to music being constantly blasted into his cell. He had also been made to sit upright for seven days straight following his arrest in 2019.

Mr Xu, a 51-year old former lecturer at the Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications, also alleged that he had been tortured.

He told BBC Chinese in 2020 that there is no space in China to openly discuss politics. “If party members discuss politics, they are accused of a lack of respect.”

“The Chinese people are still living in a state of political oppression, economic control, and ideological enslavement,” said Mr Ding in a separate statement.

“I have faced many doubts, encountered many difficulties, and suffered many setbacks. I have personally been tortured. None of this will change my steadfast philosophy.”

In 2019, Huang Qi, a journalist often called the country’s “first cyber-dissident”, was sentenced to 12 years in jail.

The year before, democracy campaigner Qin Yongmin was handed a 13-year sentence. He had already spent a total of 22 years behind bars.

In response to past criticism about its human rights record, Beijing has said “only the 1.3 billion Chinese people have a say on China’s human rights”.