Zhou Shifeng sentence highlights China’s crackdown on dissent



A court in China jailed a prominent human rights lawyer for seven years on Thursday for subverting the government, state media said, the latest in a string of convictions linked to an unprecedented crackdown on legal defenders, Reuters reports:

Zhou Shifeng (above), 51, the director of the Beijing Fengrui law firm, is among dozens of lawyers and activists who since July last year have been swept up in a crackdown on dissent.

President Xi Jinping’s administration has tightened control over almost every aspect of civil society since 2012, citing the need to buttress national security and stability….Roseann Rife, East Asia research director at Amnesty International, said in statement Zhou’s conviction was the latest in a series of “sham trials”.

Mr Zhou took on high-profile cases from which other lawyers shied away, The FT adds:

In 2008 he represented families affected by sales of tainted milk powder that killed half a dozen infants and sickened hundreds of thousands of babies. The scandal, which broke just before Beijing hosted the summer Olympics, was a huge embarrassment for the Chinese government.

According to Amnesty International, another 14 rights lawyers and activists caught up in last year’s sweep are still awaiting trial, 10 of them facing charges related to state security.

Earlier this week, the authorities sentenced another activist, Zhai Yanmin, The New York Times reports:

In the past four years, Xi Jinping, the Communist Party secretary who is now also president, has sought to limit Western influences and tighten his control of civil society. Among other things, he has increased oversight of rights organizations, fearful that they might pose a threat to the party.

“I want to remind everybody to wipe their eyes and clearly see the ugly faces of hostile forces overseas,” Mr. Zhai said, according to Xinhua. “Never be fooled by their ideas of ‘democracy,’ ‘human rights’ and ‘benefiting the public.’”

In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Zhai’s wife, Liu Ermin, said that she doubted the statement he delivered was genuine and that she planned to appeal the court’s decision.

“What I heard was not what my husband would say,” she said. “It’s not what he believes in his heart, because as his wife I know him best. He can’t deny all the things he has achieved over so many years.”

Zhai was first exposed to concepts such as the “color revolutions” and “peaceful transition” online, the court said in a statement. He then joined an underground church led by Hu Shigen and gradually developed plans to overthrow the state socialist system, notes China Digital Times:

Since 2012, Zhai has attempted to incite people to subvert state power by use of the online resources, the court said in a statement.

[…] “I accept all the charges,” Zhai said in his final statement, “With the help and education of the government, I recognize the severity of my crimes. I plead guilty and express my sincere remorse.

“I am sorry to the country and my family… If I could go back I would never have become a member of hostile forces or associated with those individuals driven by ulterior motives,” he said. [Source 

See CDT’s explanation of the terms “hostile forces” and “ulterior motives,” both commonly used by officials and state propaganda outlets.

Xi’s doubling-down on ideology and obsession with security are closing the Chinese mind and regressing Chinese civilization, analyst Peter Mattis writes for War On The Rocks:

The Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) published a useful series of papers on Chinese leadership politics and policymaking processes in a report entitled China’s Core Executive: Leadership Styles, Structures, and Processes under Xi Jinping. The report’s tightly argued essays were written by a “who’s who” list of China watchers, including Harvard’s Roderick MacFarquhar, UCSD’s Barry Naughton, Boston University’s Joseph Fewsmith, and MERICS’ Sebastian Heilmann. The most important theme of the report is the CCP’s near-paranoid need for domestic control and the effort Beijing will expend to manage society. As University of Nottingham researcher Samantha Hoffman recently observed to The Financial Times, “Under Xi Jinping the Chinese government is creating a more coherent legal framework to enforce preservation of the party-state.” Although the papers are short and individually perhaps a bit unsatisfying, the MERICS report provides a fulfilling intellectual feast.

CDT is supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.

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