‘Authoritarianism shall perish’: China sentences high-profile dissidents


Two prominent Chinese human rights lawyers have been sentenced to more than a decade in prison, Human Rights Watch said Monday, the latest in a crackdown by the ruling Communist Party on its critics, AP reports:

The rights group said Xu Zhiyong, 50, was sentenced to 14 years and Ding Jiaxi, 55, was given 12 years in prison under the vague charge of “subversion of state power.” Such proceedings are conducted under intense secrecy.

“The cruelly farcical convictions and sentences meted out to Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi show President Xi Jinping’s unstinting hostility towards peaceful activism,” said Yaqiu Wang, the group’s senior China researcher.

Dictators and their privileged interest groups continue to reinforce their authoritarian rule through increasingly high-tech means,” Ding Jiaxi said in his  Court Statement (HT: China Change). “But as the powerful historical current of civilization surges forth, we are witnessing an unfolding battle between the forces of democracy and authoritarianism. The megalomania of dictatorship and the eternal one-party state is fast coming to an end, and the social transformation of China is growing closer, day by day.”

Both were accused of convening activists and human rights lawyers in the coastal city of Xiamen in December 2019, as well as publishing articles that advocated for citizens to take part in elections, The Post adds:

A number of other attendees of the Xiamen event and supporters of Xu and Ding were also rounded up. While some have been released, Xu’s partner, Li Qiaochu, a labor rights and feminist activist, was charged with “inciting subversion” for uploading articles written by Xu. She is awaiting trial.

Credit: RFA

Teng Biao (right), a lawyer and friend of Mr. Xu and Mr. Ding, said Monday’s sentences showed how rapidly human rights had deteriorated under Mr. Xi, The Times adds:

Mr. Teng, who left China in 2013 after being detained himself several times, said that under Mr. Xi’s predecessors, it was “not possible to imagine” that a small-scale private gathering like the one in Xiamen could lead to such lengthy sentences.

But Mr. Teng noted the repression of Uyghurs in the far western region of Xinjiang, and the life sentence handed down to Ilham Tohti, a Uyghur activist and academic, under Mr. Xi. “They don’t care about human rights or the Constitution or international human rights standards,” he said of the government. RTWT

In 2010, Mr Ding and Mr Xu co-founded the New Citizens’ Movement (right), 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, The BBC adds:

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.”

Credit: Nikkei

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