China sentences leading human rights activists to 14 and 12 years in prison

By | April 10, 2023

The New York Times reports:

Two of China’s most prominent human rights lawyers were sentenced on Monday to 14 years and 12 years in prison, some of the lengthiest such sentences in recent years and an indication of how the space for expression has evaporated under China’s leader, Xi Jinping.

The lawyers, Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi, had been charged with subversion for promoting what they called a “New Citizens Movement,” which encouraged ordinary Chinese to exercise the rights such as free speech guaranteed by the country’s Constitution, at least in theory. They had been detained after organizing a gathering of about 20 lawyers and activists in the seaside city of Xiamen in 2019, where they discussed their plans to work toward those goals, and about the future of the human rights movement in China broadly.

In his decade as China’s top leader, Mr. Xi has worked, largely successfully, to crush any vestiges of dissent. He has targeted not only human rights activists but also business tycoons, intellectuals and members of the party elite, some of whom have been sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison. He has expanded online censorship and demanded loyalty from media outlets.

Human Rights Watch, the international advocacy group, denounced the latest sentences as “cruelly farcical” and called for the men’s immediate release. Mr. Xu and Mr. Ding were tried in secret, and the sentences handed down by a court in eastern Shandong Province were not publicly announced, but were confirmed by Mr. Ding’s wife, Luo Shengchun, who also goes by Sophie. [Continue reading…]