(TibetanReview.net, Apr11’23) – The United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk has expressed serious concern Apr 10 that China had sentence two prominent human rights lawyers to more than a decade each in jail in violation of international legal standards.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was referring to reports that China had, earlier in the day, convicted for “subversion of state power” Xu Zhiyong and fellow campaigner Ding Jiaxi, following closed-door trials.
Xu, 50, and Ding, 55, are prominent figures in the New Citizens Movement, which sought greater transparency into the wealth of officials and for Chinese citizens to be able to exercise their civil rights as written in the constitution.
Xu, a former lecturer at the Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications, was detained in Feb 2020, and Ding, a former commercial lawyer, was detained in Dec 2019.
The two went on trial behind closed doors in June last year on charges of state subversion at a court in Linshu county in the northeastern province of Shandong, Reuters Apr 10 cited relatives as saying at the time.
Xu, who had called for President Xi Jinping to step down over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, was jailed for 14 years, said New York-based Human Rights Watch Apr 10.
Ding was “jailed for 12 years and deprived of political rights for three years”, his wife, Madam Luo Shengchun has told the AFP, referring to a punishment in China that bars the convicted from holding public office.
“I am very concerned that two prominent human rights defenders in China – Ding Jiaxi and Xu Zhiyong – have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms, at variance with international human rights law standards,” Mr Turk has said in a statement.
“Human rights law requires that people not be prosecuted or otherwise punished for voicing their criticism of government policies,” he has added.
“It also requires respect for fair trial and due process rights, and proper investigations into any allegations of ill-treatment.”
“I will follow up on these cases with the authorities,” Mr Turk has said.
Observers have regularly raised concerns about due process in China, where the courts have a conviction rate of about 99%, noted the AFP Apr 11.
For their activism, Ding was previously imprisoned from 2013 to 2016 and Xu served four years in prison, from 2014 to 2018, said Human Rights Watch Apr 10.