China: Stop contemptible trials of human rights activists timed for Christmas holiday

Reacting to the news that human rights activist Wu Gan received his verdict and was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment on 26 December in Tianjin, while human rights lawyer Xie Yang had his trial reconvened and was found guilty but exempt from punishment in Changsha on the same day, Amnesty International’s China Researcher Patrick Poon said:
“It is disgraceful that the Chinese authorities have chosen the day after Christmas to deal with two of the remaining people left in legal limbo from the unprecedented July 2015 crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists. Carrying out unfair trials and politicized sentencing of human rights defenders at the very time when diplomats, journalists, international observers and the general public are less likely to be able to respond reeks of a cynical political calculation”.
“By trying to avoid scrutiny from the press and the international community, the Chinese government betrays the fact it knows well these sham trials cannot withstand scrutiny”.
“Both Wu Gan and Xie Yang should never have been detained, let alone found guilty of a crime, for merely exercising their right to freedom of expression.”
China has a history of engaging in politically-motivated actions against well-known activists during the Christmas holidays. Prominent Chinese dissident Hu Jia was detained on 27 December 2007. Liu Xiaobo, who would later win the Nobel Peace Prize but deceased in detention in 2017, was sentenced to 11 years on Christmas Day 2009 on the charge of “inciting subversion of state power”.
Wu Gan has been detained since May 2015 while Xie Yang was detained in July 2015 and was released on bail after he admitted to the offences at a trial in May 2017. Both cases received considerable attention in China and abroad.
On 9 July 2015 the Chinese government launched an unprecedented crackdown on human rights lawyers and other activists. Over the following weeks, almost 250 lawyers and activists were questioned or detained by state security agents, and many of their offices and homes were raided. In addition, family members of those detained were also subjected to police surveillance, harassment and restriction of their freedom of movement.
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