Human Rights

China sentences human rights lawyer to 2-year prison term

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A prominent human rights lawyer in China, whose guilty plea came in what had been criticized as a sham trial, was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison for inciting subversion of state power, the Associated Press reports.

During a brief hearing in the Intermediate People’s Court in the city of Changsha, Jiang Tianyong sat expressionless as a judge read the verdict. The court said Jiang, who had a court-appointed lawyer, would not appeal.

Jiang is believed to have been tortured into confessing, and during his trial last August “voiced contrition in a calm, practiced voice and asked for mercy,” the New York Times reported at the time, as he detailed how the “bourgeois Western Constitutional system” had a subliminal influence on him and gave him ideas about overturning China’s government and replacing it with a Western-style one.

Jiang’s representation of human rights activists, including other Chinese lawyers engaged in such work, had run hard into President Xi Jinping’s systematic efforts to silence critics and crush liberal ideas such as Western constitutionalism.

“This entire legal process is arranged by the government,” Jiang’s wife, Jin Bianling, told the AP by phone Tuesday from Los Angeles, where she now lives. “So I don’t accept Jiang pleading guilty and the guilty verdict.”

Jiang has high blood pressure, and Jin fears his health will deteriorate while he is in prison. Jiang likely will be released in a year because he already has been detained for a year. Jiang was arrested in November 2016 and shortly before that had been speaking out about the arrests of a number of legal activists that had begun in July 2015.

See also: China’s latest crackdown on lawyers is unprecedented, human rights monitors say

Jiang’s trial last August was streamed live on the internet and shown on television in China, the New York Times reported at the time.

“I hope that other so-called rights defenders and defense lawyers will draw lessons from my example and let this serve as a warning,” Jiang said in a statement to the court. “Give me a chance to become a new person.”

In 2016, China had choreographed similar trials of four lawyers shown on television, in which they confessed to subversion and received prison sentences of up to seven and a half years.

Jiang had continued his work despite having lost his law license in 2009, when the government used administrative law license procedures to shut down his firm and others engaged in human rights activism, reported at the time.

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