Sat, Apr 29, 2017 - Page 6 News List

China convicts rights lawyer Li Heping over ‘subversion’

The Guardian

A human rights lawyer has been convicted of “subversion of state power” at a secret trial in China, almost two years after he was detained in a sweeping crackdown.

Li Heping (李和平) was sentenced to three years in prison with a four-year reprieve, the court in the eastern city of Tianjin said on an official social media account, meaning he should be released, but could be arrested and jailed at any point.

The trial was held behind closed doors on Tuesday because “the case involved state secrets,” the court said.

Li was swept up in a nationwide crackdown on rights lawyers and rights advocates in July 2015, where about 250 people were detained or questioned by police.

Since assuming power, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has launched a new wave of attacks on advocates and the lawyers who defend them.

Li’s case drew attention around the world and EU officials, as well as the embassies of 11 countries, called for his claims of torture while in custody to be investigated.

His wife has said authorities used electric shocks on him.

Li became well-known for defending disenfranchised people, including Christian house churches, victims of forced evictions and free-speech advocates. He worked within the scope of China’s legal system, rather than taking to the streets in protest.

Although Li is likely to be released in the coming weeks, he has already spent more than 20 months in detention.

The court’s verdict was seen as a warning to other advocates and included a catalog of vague charges, without citing any specific examples of illegality.

“The court ruled that since 2008, the defendant Li Heping repeatedly used the Internet and foreign media interviews to discredit and attack state power and the legal system,” the court said.

The court also accused Li of accepting foreign funds and employing paid defendants.

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