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Beijing indicts Chinese activists for discussing 'human rights' at meeting

News Agencies | Updated on: 10 January 2022, 10:41 IST

China has indicted twenty or so lawyers and activists who gathered at a rental villa near the Chinese seaside for discussing besieged human rights movement.

Chris Buckley, writing in The New York Times said that a weekend get-together in 2019 offered Beijing a chance to deliver a blow to the "rights defence" movement. Now, two key participants face the prospect of years in prison.

The two best-known attendees -- Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi -- are awaiting trial on subversion charges related to the gathering, according to indictments.

Get-togethers like this, once common among Chinese rights campaigners, have become increasingly risky under Xi Jinping's hard-line rule.

Under him, many journals, research organizations and groups that once sustained independent-minded activists in China have been dissolved, said Buckley.

As he prepares to extend his era in power, those who still speak out are wondering how China's human rights movement can survive a tightening ring of monitoring, house arrest, detentions and trials.

"This shows how they're terrified of even small buds of Chinese citizen consciousness and civic society," Liu Sifang, a teacher and amateur musician who took part in the gathering, said in an interview from Los Angeles, where he now lives.

He fled abroad in late 2019 after the police began detaining those who attended the villa get-together. Border police in China have blocked his wife from joining him, he said.

Several people who attended the weekend session in Xiamen, in eastern China, were soon detained, spending weeks or months locked up before the release, reported The New York Times.

One attendee, the lawyer Chang Weiping, was detained for a second time and arrested on the charge of subversion after stating on video that interrogators had tortured him during his first stint of detention.

Xu, 48, and Ding, 54, both have told lawyers that they did nothing illegal, but they face prison terms of 10 years or even longer if a party-controlled court convicts them, as seems almost inevitable.

While Western governments have focused on mass detentions of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region, the prosecution of Xu and Ding highlights the Chinese Communist Party's intense campaign against dissent all across China, said Buckley.

Security officials have vowed to root out any political opposition ahead of a party congress later in 2022 when Xi is poised to gain another five-year term as top leader.


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First published: 10 January 2022, 10:41 IST