2 Chinese Rights Activists Tried in Secret for Advocating Democracy and Human Rights

By Sophia Lam
Sophia Lam
Sophia Lam
Sophia Lam joined The Epoch Times in 2021 and she covers China-related topics.
July 5, 2022 Updated: July 5, 2022

Two long-standing Chinese rights activists were put on trial behind closed doors on June 22 and June 24.

Xu Zhiyong, a legal scholar and civil rights activist, and Ding Jiaxi, a veteran human rights lawyer, faced “unfair” and “spurious charges of ‘subverting state power,’” which is “an attack on freedom of association,” according to a June 21 report from Amnesty International.

Xu and Ding co-founded the New Citizens’ Movement that called for the rule of law and freedom in China.

Ding’s wife, Luo Shengchun, now living in the United States, wrote on Twitter on June 20 that her husband’s lawyers were forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement, banning them from speaking with the media. She wrote four days later that she received only a short message from one of her husband’s lawyers, telling her that the trial, lasting almost 12 hours, ended before 9 p.m. on June 24 and that a court record had just been signed.

Xu’s sister went to Linshu County in China’s eastern Shandong Province, where her brother was to be trialed in the county court, but several police officers broke into her hotel room at 1 a.m. and forced her to leave. She was not allowed to attend her brother’s trial, wrote Luo.

There has not yet been a verdict, and Luo insists that both her husband and Xu are innocent. She called the trials “pitch darkness of secret Chinese communist regime’s court trials” in her Twitter posts.

‘Sheer Political Persecution’

In December 2019, Xu and Ding had a gathering with over 20 rights lawyers and friends in Xiamen, a southeastern coastal city in China. The meeting sparked a nationwide hunt for Xu, Ding, and their friends. Ding was captured on Dec. 26, 2019, and Xu was taken weeks later on Feb. 15, 2020. They have both been detained since.

“The police detained those who attended the gathering, but they had no evidence or any legal ground to do that,” Wu Shaoping, a Chinese human rights lawyer, told the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times in a recent interview.

“We are just Chinese citizens and human rights lawyers who care about our society. We met for some food and we chatted about current and political issues,” Wu said. He told the publication that he participated in the Xiamen gathering.

Wu said that he had been watching the progress of the cases of Ding and Xu, whose lawyers were given a pre-court meeting on June 17 and June 20, respectively, before the trials.

“We know the cases. There are over 100 dossiers for each case. The regime’s court allowed the lawyers only one day to read through the so-called evidence, but they did not allow the lawyers to photocopy any of the dossiers. The court is only going through the motions,” said Wu. He condemned the trial as “sheer political persecution.”

Support

The closed-door trials sparked support for Xu and Ding in China and overseas, with many condemning the trials and asking for their immediate release.

Amnesty International called the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) subversion charges “spurious.”

“The Chinese authorities have targeted Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi not because they committed any internationally recognized crime, but simply because they hold views the government does not like. These unfair trials are an egregious attack on their human rights,” said Amnesty International’s China Campaigner Gwen Lee.

Mary Lawlor, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, wrote on Twitter on June 24 that Ding “should be guaranteed a transparent & fair trial, including by allowing his lawyers to submit all relevant evidence.”

International Service for Human Rights, a non-governmental organization with offices in Geneva, Switzerland, and New York, United States, wrote on the same day that they join Ding’s wife in “urging China to respect basic due process and release Ding Jiaxi.”

Human Rights in China, a Chinese non-governmental organization founded in 1989 by overseas Chinese students and scientists, posted a statement on June 24, calling for “the immediate release” of Xu and Ding and condemning “in the strongest terms their closed-door trials for ‘subversion of state power.’”

Human Rights Lawyers in China, a group of lawyers who vow to defend the human rights of the Chinese people, published a statement, demanding the Chinese regime immediately set Xu and Ding free.

Friends and supporters also joined Ding’s wife, posting on Twitter their photos with placards, urging the Chinese regime to free Ding and Xu.

The French Embassy in China published a post on China’s popular social media platform Weibo, saying that “We are with them [Xu and Ding],” and demanding the Chinese regime “immediately set them free.”

Open Letter to Xi Jinping

Xu, while on the run in 2020, wrote an open letter to CCP leader Xi Jinping. In the letter, he criticized Xi’s policies, from both economical and political perspectives, including the Sino–U.S. trade war, the Belt and Road Initiative, poverty alleviation, suppression of freedoms in Hong Kong, and the handling of the initial COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan.

“Sometimes I look up at the stars and I ask myself: Who am I? Why did I come to this world? Have you ever asked yourself these questions? Sometimes I stand high and look back at the world, and I see myself as tiny as dust. Have you ever looked back? Life is in such a hurry, why are we so obsessed with the maze and illusions? Have you ever pondered it?” Xu addressed Xi in his open letter, calling on Xi to “go home and rest upon the end of the second term.”

The open letter is archived on the website of China Digital Times, “an independent, bilingual media organization” that “brings uncensored news and online voices from China to the world,” according to its website.

According to a statement by the Human Rights Lawyers Group in China, Xu promoted the abolishing of China’s notorious system of detaining and dispatching migrant workers and successfully helped the children of migrant workers to take the national entrance examination in places other than their hometowns.

Ding advocated the establishment of the concept of citizenship by the Chinese people, demanded the establishment of an official property publicity system, rescued petitioners, and promoted equal rights for the elderly, according to the statement from the Human Rights Lawyers Group in China.

Both of them “were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment during detention, including long hours of interrogation and being bound to an iron ‘tiger-chair’ torture device with their limbs contorted for more than 10 hours per day for many days,” according to Amnesty International on June 21.

“It is so dark. Does that mean it’s almost dawn?” Luo Shengchun, Ding’s wife, wrote on Twitter, expecting justice and freedom to come soon.

Gao Miao contributed to the article.

Sophia Lam
Sophia Lam joined The Epoch Times in 2021 and she covers China-related topics.