China: Politics, Law, and the Case Against Pu Zhiqiang

December 17, 2015

Reporting on Monday’s trial of leading rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, The New York Times’ Edward Wong described the trial’s context amid efforts to chill civil society and subjugate the law. Pu was charged with inciting ethnic hatred and picking quarrels on the basis of seven Weibo posts(translated in full at China Change). The trial was marked by an aggressive security presencedeployed against protesters, journalists, and foreign diplomats outside the courthouse.

Mr. Pu is the most prominent rights lawyer to be arrested in a wave of detentions and imprisonments of legal practitioners, though President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders have repeatedly pledged to strengthen the rule of law. Lawyers say the arrests are the greatest assault on their profession in decades. Mr. Pu’s case has taken on symbolic significance, as an indication of Mr. Xi and the Communist Party’s growing intolerance for liberal political thought and their abiding need to control any channels for discussion of social ills.

“Under Xi Jinping, our society has been regressing,” said Hu Jia, a rights activist who was imprisoned from December 2007 to June 2011 for his writings. “The authorities are doing this because they want people to feel that their fingers are loaded with a lot of weight when typing on the keyboard.”

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