Human rights in China

Chinese rights lawyer ‘pleads guilty’ to subversion

Wife of Xie Yang, whose allegations of torture in custody attracted international attention, says her husband was forced into discrediting himself

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 May, 2017, 3:50pm
UPDATED : Monday, 08 May, 2017, 11:00pm

A Chinese human rights lawyer, whose claims of torture in detention drew international concern, pleaded guilty in court on Monday to subversion.

Xie Yang appeared in the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court in Hunan province on charges of inciting subversion of state power and disrupting order in the court, the court said in a statement.

Xie, who has taken on many politically sensitive cases, was detained in July 2015 during a nationwide round-up of rights lawyers and activists known as the “709 crackdown”, which saw more than 200 rights defenders taken away for interrogation or detention.

His case drew international attention after his defence lawyer, Chen Jiangang, released transcripts of their meetings detailing Xie’s accounts of torture by the authorities during his initial ­confinement and subsequent ­detention.

But Xie pleaded guilty on Monday and denied he had been tortured in custody, saying he apologised for “misleading the public”, according to transcripts of the court proceedings on the court’s social media account.

The court transcripts also said Xie admitted he was “brainwashed” at training sessions in Hong Kong and South Korea with “wrong ideas such as Western constitutionalism”.

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The sessions planted the idea of “overthrowing the existing ­system and achieving Western constitutionalism in China”, Xie was quoted as saying in the court transcripts.

The training in Hong Kong was organised by a human rights institution and a Christian association, while the sessions in South Korea were organised by the Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group (CHRLCG), the transcripts said. The gathering in South Korea was an “official event organised by the Hong Kong government to study South Korea’s judicial system”.

Xie’s wife, Chen Guiqiu, said she believed her husband had been forced into discrediting himself. “This is all a show put on by [the authorities]. I believe Xie only complied to save his own life because he had been subjected to inhuman, unbearable torture in the past months,” said Chen Guiqiu, who now lives in the United States. She fled to the US via Thailand with her two daughters with the help of US embassy officials, the Associated Press reported ­on Monday.

Xie’s lawyer, Chen Jiangang, had not been allowed to see his client since February and the authorities appointed two other lawyers to represent Xie without the family’s knowledge, she added.

Chen Jiangang and his family were taken away by the police last week while travelling in Yunnan province. His wife and two children were released, but the lawyer remained in detention.

Contacted on Monday morning, Chen Jiangang said he was travelling by car under police escort from Taiyuan in Shanxi province to return home to Beijing. He said he was not free to discuss Xie’s case.

EU urges China to investigate reports of torture of lawyers detained in ‘709 crackdown’

Albert Ho Chun-yan, chairman of CHRLCG, said the group often invited mainland rights lawyers to Hong Kong for exchanges that, for example, offered a look at Hong Kong’s judicial system.

The group also organised trips to South Korea and Taiwan but he could not recall which trip Xie had been on.

“According to the transcript, Xie said the event was also organised by the Hong Kong government. You don’t need me to tell you that [these claims] are problematic,” Ho said.

“[Xie] was tortured into conceding … Nobody would believe he willingly said what he said, and nobody would believe this was a fair trial.”

Xie’s trial was originally scheduled at the Changsha court on April 25, but dozens of his supporters and several foreign diplomats gathered outside the court were told it had been postponed.

In the transcripts lawyer Chen posted online in January, Xie said he was beaten, deprived of sleep, water and medical care by interrogators who vowed to torture him until he “went insane” and threatened harm to his family.

The claims soon grabbed international attention, including concerns voiced by the European Union which called on China to look into Xie’s torture allegations.

Eleven countries including Canada and Australia issued a joint letter in February to the Chinese government, calling on it to investigate the “credible claims of torture” by Xie and a handful of other rights lawyers, the Canadian newspaper The Globe & Mail reported.