A Chinese court yesterday jailed three rights activists for up to five years, lawyers said, on charges including inciting subversion, amid what critics see as an intensifying crackdown on dissent under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).
The Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court sentenced lawyer Tang Jingling (唐荊陵) and activists Yuan Xinting (袁新亭), 44, and Wang Qingying (王清營) to five years, three-and-a-half years and two-and-a-half years imprisonment respectively, according to their lawyers.
Tang, 44, a prominent rights activist in the southern city of Guangzhou, was charged with “inciting subversion of state power,” as well as publishing books on democracy.
The trio were known as the “three gentlemen of Guangzhou,” part of a once vibrant network of activists in the city.
Human rights groups and some Western countries have expressed repeated concern about a widening campaign to quash dissent among academics, journalists and social activists.
China rejects any criticism of its human rights record, saying it is a country ruled by law and that it opposes external interference in its domestic affairs.
Scores of police fenced off the court’s perimeter, preventing two foreign diplomats, from the US and Germany, from attending the trial.
Police bundled several supporters into vehicles and took them away, while journalists were blocked from filming by officers wielding black umbrellas.
“This verdict is unacceptable,” Tang’s wife, Wang Yanfang (汪艷芳), said outside the court. “They violated no laws, and the charges are politically motivated... They were only trying to help society.”
The Guangzhou court could not be reached for a response to accusations the men were not granted a fair trial.
It had not released any information about the trial on its Web site or Sina Weibo microblogging feed by late afternoon.
One of the lawyers defending the men, Ge Yongxi (葛永喜), said Tang would not appeal, because it would be “meaningless in the face of a court that is acting illegally.”
He said Tang told the court he would only appeal to the citizens of China and to God for justice.
“Their peaceful and legitimate work never threatened state security, this is solely about the authorities arbitrarily silencing government critics,” Amnesty International researcher Patrick Poon (潘嘉偉) said in a statement.
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