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China's jailing of pro-democracy lawyer sparks uproar

Chang Weiping has faced repression from the Communist Party for his fight for human rights and equality

Chinese human rights lawyer Chang Weiping

Chinese human rights lawyer Chang Weiping. (Photo: Internet via HKFP)

Published: June 21, 2023 10:15 AM GMT

Updated: June 21, 2023 10:42 AM GMT

Rights activists strongly condemned the jailing of a pro-democracy lawyer in China on charges of subversion following his arrest during a police raid on an alleged gathering of dissidents three years ago.

Chang Weiping, 39, a human rights lawyer was sentenced by the Supreme People's Procuratorate – a government prosecutor with investigative and judicial authorities – to a three-and-a-half-year jail term for subversion of state power, ChinaAid reported on June 19.

Dr. Chen Zijuan, Chang’s wife, decried the sentence pointing out that her husband would not be free even after serving his sentence which will end by 2024.

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“Even a sentence of one day is not deserved,” Chen said.

Chen alleged that Beijing’s common practice of dealing with political prisoners and dissidents would curtail her husband’s freedom to leave China and that the authorities will put him under constant surveillance.

Chang and around 20 other pro-democracy supporters gathered at China’s southeastern city of Xiamen between Dec. 7-8, 2019, to discuss current events and policy, public affairs, and China’s political trajectory, an act the government considered a conspiracy, according to ChinaAid.

The police raided the gathering and arrested Chang and the others who have remained in detention ever since.

Yang Zhanqing, Chang’s lawyer, pointed out that his participation in the meeting had “nothing to do with subversion of state power” while alleging that the court judgment was a retaliatory move on behalf of the government.

“It is clear that it’s a retaliation against him by the local government, which turned what was a normal action of practicing law and claiming rights into a sensitive political incident, causing great harm to lawyer Chang and his family,” Yang said.

Chang, a lawyer was actively involved in fighting for equal employment rights through legal channels and provided free legal advice and case assistance.

Chang also provided rights protection services to petitioners and initiated many public interest lawsuits in his local area.

China’s communist regime repeatedly suppressed Chang’s activities and even revoked his legal license, ChinaAid reported.

He was charged with “inciting subversion of state power” in October 2020 and placed under residential surveillance at a designated location (RSDL).

His case was tried behind closed doors at the Baoji Intermediate People’s Court on July 26, 2022. The trial was postponed at least twice, and the verdict was repeatedly postponed.

Xiang Xianhong, the head investigator of the case, allegedly led and participated in the torture of Chang Weiping at the Baotai Hotel in Yunnan, according to ChinaAid.

After briefing Chang on his condition during surveillance, the police detained him in the Fengyang Detention Center in Shaanxi province.

On April 7, 2021, the authorities officially arrested Chang. He has been in custody ever since.

The other dissidents have also been sentenced to varying jail terms.

Rights activists Dr. Xu Zhiyong and lawyer Ding Jiaxi, were sentenced to 14 and 12 years, respectively.

Li Qiaochu, Dr. Xu’s girlfriend, who was implicated in participating in the gathering is still in custody.

Zhang Zhongshun, Dai Zhenya, Chen Jiaping, and other activists who participated in the gathering have been released on bail pending trial.


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