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Human rights in China

Chinese rights lawyer escapes jail term after admitting subversion

Court says Xie Yang was given lenient treatment after he pled guilty and expressed regret for his actions

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 December, 2017, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 December, 2017, 7:47pm

A Chinese lawyer detained in a sweeping crackdown against human rights campaigners has been convicted of inciting subversion, but will not face a jail term as he pled guilty to the charges.

Xie Yang, 45, whose claims of torture while in custody drew international attention, was convicted by a court in Changsha in Hunan province.

The court released a video on Tuesday morning, showing the judge addressing Xie.

The judge said the lawyer had not caused severe damage to national security and social stability despite his intention to incite subversion.

“He has confessed to his criminal acts truthfully, pled guilty and expressed regret,” the judge said. “[He] can be punished with leniency according to the law.”

Xie, whose clients included Chinese villagers suing local governments for seizing their land, was detained in July 2015 during a nationwide round-up of rights lawyers and activists known as the “709 crackdown”.

Chinese rights lawyer ‘pleads guilty’ to subversion

His case grabbed international attention after his defence lawyer Chen Jiangang said his client had been beaten and deprived of sleep, water and medical care while in detention.

Xie denied he was tortured when his court hearing took place in May.

He also admitted developing the idea of overthrowing China’s political system after attending training sessions in Hong Kong and South Korea, according to court transcripts released by the authorities.

Xie’s wife and supporters said the former lawyer had been coerced into discrediting himself.

In the court video released on Tuesday, Xie again denied he was tortured and apologised for misleading the public.

He also thanked the court, prosecutors and his government-appointed legal representatives for their “hard work” throughout the judicial process, adding he would not appeal.

“I am grateful to the judiciary for their lenient treatment,” Xie said while holding a handwritten script. “I will in the future be a citizen who follows discipline and obeys the law.”

Xie was the second “709 crackdown” detainee who received a court verdict on Tuesday, during the Christmas holiday in many countries outside China.

Critics said the timing was deliberate to limit international attention to the cases.

Chinese rights activist ‘Super Vulgar Butcher’ jailed for eight years

Another prominent rights activist, Wu Gan, known on social media as “Super Vulgar Butcher”, was sentenced to eight years in jail on subversion charges by a court in Tianjin earlier on Tuesday morning.

Patrick Poon, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Amnesty International, said in a statement that China has a history of sentencing well-known activists, including the late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, during the Christmas holidays.

“Carrying out unfair trials and politicised sentencing of human rights defenders at the very time when diplomats, journalists, international observers and the general public are less likely to be able to respond reeks of a cynical political calculation,” Poon said.