August 4, 2016
The Chinese authorities must end their relentless suppression of human rights lawyers and activists, Amnesty International said today, after a prominent lawyer became the latest to be convicted after an unfair trial.
On Thursday, Zhou Shifeng was sentenced to seven years in prison after being found guilty of “subverting state power”, following a trial that lasted less than a day at Tianjin No.2 People’s Court in north east China.
On Wednesday this week, democracy activist Hu Shigen was sentenced to seven-and-a half-years for “subverting state power”, and on Tuesday activist Zhai Yanmin was given a three-year prison sentence, suspended for four years, after being convicted of the same charge.
“This wave of trials against lawyers and activists are a political charade. Their fate was sealed before they stepped into the courtroom and there was no chance that they would ever receive a fair trial,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.
“The Chinese authorities appear intent on silencing anyone who raises legitimate questions about human rights and uses the legal system to seek redress.”
The convictions are the first against individuals caught up in an unprecedented crackdown, which began in July 2015 and saw 248 human rights lawyers and activists targeted.
The three men sentenced this week were held in pre-trial detention for more than a year, denied defence lawyers of their choice and their families were not allowed to attend the trials. Chinese state television also broadcast “confessions” from Zhai Yanmin and Zhou Shifeng ahead of their trials. Amnesty International has documented a pattern of such tactics being used against detained rights lawyers and activists.
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