Canadian Embassy in China Demands ‘Unconditional Release’ of 2 Human Rights Lawyers Given Long Sentences

Canadian Embassy in China Demands ‘Unconditional Release’ of 2 Human Rights Lawyers Given Long Sentences
A police officer walks past placards of detained rights activists taped on the fence of the Chinese liaison office, in protest against Beijing's detention of prominent anti-corruption activist Xu Zhiyong, in Hong Kong on Feb. 19, 2020.  (Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images)
Andrew Chen

The Canadian embassy in Beijing is demanding the immediate release of two Chinese human rights lawyers who were dealt heavy sentences of more than a decade each by the communist authorities.

“We are deeply concerned by the sentencing of lawyers Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi to 14 and 12 years in prison. These human rights defenders were calling for transparency & civil rights. According to the UN, they were arbitrarily detained. We call for their unconditional release,” the Canadian embassy wrote in a Twitter statement on April 13.

Earlier that day, the embassy released a similar statement in simplified Chinese posted on Weibo, a popular social media platform in China.

The U.N. Human Rights Chief Volker Türk issued a statement on April 10, saying that he was “very concerned” about the lengthy prison terms handed to Xu and Ding.

The U.S. State Department also condemned the harsh sentencing of the two in a statement on April 11.

“We urge the PRC to immediately and unconditionally release these two unjustly detained human rights defenders and to cease any harassment of their family members,” the statement said.

“We similarly call upon the PRC to release others who were unjustly detained or imprisoned, to reinstate the lawyers who were unjustly disbarred, and to allow all individuals to exercise their fundamental freedoms.”


Xu, 50, and Ding, 55, are prominent figures in the Chinese New Citizens Movement, which seeks the peaceful transition of the country toward constitutionalism and also calls for greater transparency regarding the wealth of officials.
The two have been detained for more than three years. Ding was arrested on Dec. 26, 2019, after attending a gathering with about 20 other human rights lawyers and activists in Xiamen, a port city in China’s southeast coastal province of Fujian. He was subsequently placed under “residential surveillance in a designated location” for six months, and faced various forms of torture during that period, according to a 2021 statement from Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada.
Xu, a key figure of the New Citizens Movement, went into hiding following the now dubbed “1226 crackdown,” but was arrested in February 2020, according to The Guardian.
Xu and Ding were tried behind closed doors last June and were charged with state subversion at a court in Linshua county in the northeastern province of Shandong, according to a report by Reuters earlier this week. China’s foreign ministry, however, told Reuters that it was not aware of the lawyers’ cases.

Li Qiaochu, Xu’s girlfriend and a labour and women’s rights activist, was also arrested. Li didn’t participate in the 2019 gathering, but her home searched by police and was placed under surveillance following the incident. She was later arrested after documenting and making public the crackdown in a blog post on Feb. 4, 2020.

The Chinese communist regime has dramatically clamped down on dissent in recent years. Prior to the 1226 crackdown, hundreds of rights lawyers were detained and dozens jailed in a series of arrests in China commonly known as the “709 crackdown,” referring to a clampdown on July 9, 2015.