Shaanxi court jails tortured rights lawyer Chang Weiping for three-and-a-half years

A court in the northern Chinese province of Shaanxi has jailed prominent rights lawyer Chang Weiping for three-and-a-half years after he attended a gathering of dissidents in the southeastern city of Xiamen in December 2019.
The Feng County People’s Court handed down the sentence to Chang – whose lawyers say he has suffered torture in incommunicado detention – after finding him guilty of “incitement to subvert state power” at a secret trial.
The sentence came eight weeks after authorities in Shandong province handed down a 14-year sentence to prominent dissident Xu Zhiyong and a 12-year term to rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi, who also attended the Xiamen gathering, on the same charges, prompting an international outcry.
Subversion charges are frequently used by the ruling Chinese Communist Party to target peaceful critics of the regime.
Chang’s wife Chen Zijuan dismissed the case against her husband as “absurd.”
“His sentence of three-and-a-half years ... may appear more lenient than those of Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi, but the whole case against him was ridiculous from start to finish,” Chen said.
“Even a day in prison would have been too much.”
De facto travel ban
Before his trial, Chang had been held for a long time under “residential surveillance at a designated location,” which rights groups say is associated with a higher risk of torture and mistreatment in detention.
Lawyers representing Chang, Xu and Ding have all reported that they were tortured during their time in pretrial detention.
“He has been locked up in the detention center for a very long time already, and I’m very concerned about his health,” Chen said, adding that her husband has also been sentenced to two-and-a-half years’ “deprivation of political rights,” which she said was a de facto travel ban.
“The point of the so-called deprivation of political rights is to stop him from leaving the country,” she said. 
“Judging from past practice ... even if political prisoners are released after serving their sentences ... they are unlikely to have true freedom but be under surveillance, and they won’t have the freedom to leave the country,” Chen said.
She added that Chang is still considering whether or not to appeal, according to his lawyer.
Rights attorney Liu Shihui said any appeal would just be a question of “going through the motions,” however.
“Everyone knows that the sentence is never changed in these sorts of cases involving prisoners of conscience,” Liu said. “It’s a form of political persecution.”
“They have delayed this case for more than three years before pronouncing sentence ... and everyone knows that life in those detention centers is hell on earth, and a year seems like a whole lifetime,” he said.
‘No legal basis at all’
U.S.-based rights activist and legal scholar Teng Biao said Chang had gotten off relatively lightly compared with Xu and Ding, whom the authorities seem to regard as the main “culprits’ behind the Xiamen dinner gathering.
“They probably think Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi were the ringleaders in the Xiamen case, but from a legal point of view, neither Xu, Ding nor Chang or anyone else [accused] in this case have committed any crime,” Teng said.
“Arresting them and sending them to prison for subversion of state power is pure political persecution and a gross violation of their civil rights and freedoms, and has no legal basis at all, regardless of how lenient the sentence may be,” he said.
Chang, who was only allowed to meet with a lawyer after nearly a year in detention, was strapped immobile into a “tiger chair” torture device for six days straight, and deprived of food and sleep, his lawyer said in September 2021.
Ding’s lawyers say he was restrained in a “tiger chair” between April 1 and April 8, 2020, and interrogated for 21 hours a day, subjected to sleep deprivation and limited food and water.
Xu has told his lawyer that he was subjected to similar treatment in the “tiger chair” while detained in Shandong’s Yantai city.
Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Matt Reed.


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