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Human Rights on Trial

The first quarter of 2019 has seen the continued repression of human rights advocates, lawyers, and civil society groups. On 14 January, blogger Huang Qi was tried for leaking state secrets. In a sad turn of events, his mother was detained after approaching foreign embassies in Beijing for assistance in obtaining the release of her son. Likewise, in the days that followed, lawyer Chen Wuquan was found guilty of ‘picking quarrels and stirring up trouble’, and sentenced to five years in prison. On 25 January, activist Liu Feiyue was handed a five-year sentence for ‘inciting state subversion’. This sentence came one day after human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang was sentenced to four and a half years’ imprisonment on similar subversion charges. Worryingly, Wang’s appeal was reportedly erased from the Tianjin court system where it was expected to be held. To end the month, blogger Liu Yanli also stood trial for similar charges after ‘insulting’ Mao Zedong and CCP leaders in a series of WeChat posts in September 2016. At the time of writing, a verdict has not been handed down, however it is understood that the prosecution has pressed for a three- or four-year jail term. In early March, Lu Tingge, a human rights lawyer based in Shijiazhuang, went missing after posting an online petition asking for constitutional changes. Repression does not spare even foreign citizens. On 19 January, writer and former diplomat Yang Hengjun, an Australian citizen, was detained while travelling in China pending an investigation for ‘endangering state security’. In February, lawyers hired by Yang’s wife were denied access to him. On a more positive note, in February human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong was released from prison after serving a two-year sentence for inciting state subversion. Jiang has since returned to his parents’ home in Henan province, although he is reportedly kept under close watch by the authorities. TS

(Sources: Financial Review; Radio Free Asia 1; Radio Free Asia 2; Radio Free Asia 3; Radio Free Asia 4; South China Morning Post; The Guardian 1; The Guardian 2; The New York Times)

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