Human rights in China

‘He is an innocent man’: wife says jailed Chinese rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong forced to plead guilty

Jin Bianling says she had hoped husband’s confession would ensure his release

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 November, 2017, 11:18am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 November, 2017, 10:00pm

The wife of a prominent Chinese human rights advocate jailed for two years on Tuesday for “inciting subversion” said she believed her husband was innocent and had been forced into making a confession.

Footage of a judge handing down the sentence against lawyer Jiang Tianyong was posted on the microblogging account of the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court on Tuesday morning.

In the 15-minute video, Jiang, 46, sits motionless and stares at the floor while the judge reads out the court’s decision, saying the defendant’s actions were malignant and severely damaged the nation’s image.

According to the judgment, Jiang’s conviction was based mainly on social media messages he posted attacking government departments, interviews he did with overseas media and training courses of a political nature he attended overseas.

In the video, Jiang is led away by two court police officers after telling the court that he will not appeal against the decision.

He pleaded guilty when he first appeared in the court in Changsha, Hunan province, in August and asked for leniency.

Chinese rights activist pleads guilty to inciting subversion

Jiang, who defended blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng and members of the banned movement Falun Gong, was disbarred in 2009 but remained active in civil rights.

He was detained by Hunan police last November after he tried to visit Xie Yang, one of the 300 or so lawyers and advocates caught in the central government’s sweeping crackdown on civil rights two years ago.

Lawyer Wang Quanzhang is the last person from the July 9 crackdown to remain in custody without trial.

Jiang’s wife, Jin Bianling, said she had hoped the guilty plea would allow the court to release her husband on bail, as was the case with Xie.

“He is an innocent man,” said Jin, who fled to the United States with the couple’s daughter in 2013.

“He was not allowed to leave China but he is there today mostly because he didn’t want to leave other human rights lawyers behind in the midst of the 709 crackdown that year.”

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She said the authorities did not allow the lawyers she hired to represent her husband and the officially appointed advocates had refused to communicate with her in the past year.

“The trials are staged and scripted by the authorities. He has no choice but to compromise and play along,” she said.

Jin said Jiang’s parents had been under close watch and his sister taken away by Changsha authorities soon as she arrived at the court on Tuesday morning.

Jiang’s supporters, including the wives of other 709 lawyers Wang Qiaoling, Li Wenzu, Yuan Shanshan and Liu Ermin, also gathered outside the court but were barred from attending the hearing.

Xie Yanyi, another 709 lawyer who was detained and then released on bail earlier this year, described Jiang’s sentence as “tailor-made retaliation” for helping petitioners and political prisoners. He urged the public to “remember the price Jiang paid for justice and freedom”.

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Amnesty International China researcher William Nee called for Jiang’s immediate release.

“[Jiang’s] unjust conviction is a textbook example of the Chinese authorities’ systematic persecution of those who are brave enough to defend human rights in China today,” Nee said.

“Jiang Tianyong’s trial was a total sham. Even with the most rudimentary examination of the facts the case against him crumbles. His so-called confession and apology, most likely extracted under duress, were nothing more than an act of political theatre directed by the authorities.”