May 10, 2017
PRESIDENT XI JINPING of China has been tireless in stamping out dissent. He has demanded that journalists, charities and university professors, among others, bow to the supremacy of the Communist Party. He told journalists for party organs that they must show absolute loyalty and “have the party as their family name.” Mr. Xi seems particularly eager to keep a firm hand on the reins of power before this year’s key meeting of the Chinese Communist Party to seal his second five-year term.
One of the most vicious campaigns has been the so-called war on law, using arrests, detentions and show trials to punish lawyers who have courageously defended human rights victims in recent years. The crackdown was launched in July 2015, and more than 250 people were detained. Among them was Li Heping, a prominent lawyer who had defended Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal advocate and rights champion, as well as villagers evicted from their homes and practitioners of Falun Gong, a religious discipline banned by the Chinese authorities.
After nearly 22 months in prison during which he was reportedly tortured with electric shocks, Mr. Li was tried April 25 in the port city of Tianjin. The court announced April 28 that he had been convicted of “subversion of state power”for, among other things, using the foreign media and his postings on social media to “smear and attack state organs and the legal system.” He was given a three-year prison sentence, with a four-year reprieve, meaning he will have the convictions hanging over him.