China’s Empowerment Under Xi Jinping 5:28 (CNN) — A prominent Chinese civil rights advocate who once called on leader Xi Jinping to resign because he’s “not smart enough” has been tried behind closed doors. , this Wednesday, on charges of subverting the power of the state. The move comes as the Communist Party steps up its crackdown on dissent ahead of a key meeting this fall where Xi is expected to further tighten his grip on power with a near-unprecedented third term. Xu Zhiyong, a veteran civil rights activist and law scholar, appeared Wednesday morning in a local court in Linshu County, in the eastern province of Shandong, in a hearing that was closed to the public for “concerning secrets.” of State”. A person with direct knowledge of the case said before the trial that Xu was determined to plead not guilty. Supporters and civil rights groups called the trial “grossly unfair” and the charges “made up.” “Such a political case has nothing to do with the law and evidence. The entire trial process is dominated by the political forces behind the court,” said Teng Biao, a prominent Chinese human rights lawyer now residing in United States. “This is a political trial and political persecution.” Teng said Xu is likely to receive a heavy sentence because this would be the second time he has been jailed. In 2014, Xu was sentenced to four years in prison for “gathering crowds to disturb public order.” “For political prisoners, the second jail term is usually longer than the first,” Teng said. A police officer walks past banners calling for the release of detained Chinese rights activists, which are pasted on the fence of the China Liaison Office in Hong Kong on February 19, 2020. Open letter Xu of 49 years old, he was arrested in February 2020 in the southern city of Guangzhou after spending almost two months in hiding. He was one of several rights activists rounded up by authorities after a private meeting in the southeastern city of Xiamen in December 2019. While in hiding, Xu published an open letter to Xi asking him to resign, a call surprisingly forceful that it was quickly censored on the Chinese internet. Publicly calling for the resignation of a leader is an extremely risky act in China, where political dissent is heavily suppressed and severely punished, especially under Xi. In his letter, Xu launched a blunt attack on Xi’s policies, from the Communist Party’s tightening of controls on the economy to his suppression of freedoms in Hong Kong and his handling of the initial Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan. . “I don’t think you’re an evil person. You’re just not smart enough,” he wrote. “Therefore, I urge you again – which I think is also a very widespread sentiment -: Mr. Xi Jinping, please resign.” Teng, the US-based legal activist, said the open letter had likely contributed to Xu being charged with subversion, the most serious political crime, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. “[Desde que] Xi came to power, reinforced his dictatorship and promoted a cult of personality around himself. It was incredibly brave for Xu to write a letter calling for Xi’s resignation in China, but of course the authorities would never tolerate such articles,” said Teng. A central figure Xu, a former university professor with a doctorate in law from the prestigious University of Beijing first rose to fame in 2003 when it took on the case of a university student who was beaten to death during detention in Guangzhou.Her campaign, along with other jurists, caused the Chinese government to abolish a well-known system by which rural immigrants were arbitrarily detained, fined, and expelled by police in big cities.In 2010, he co-founded the New Citizens Movement with like-minded activists, including Teng, to advocate for civil rights and political reform. released from prison in 2017, Xu has continued to speak out on political and social issues, posting poignant essays on his personal blog, including when a growing list of his fellow activists, jurists, human rights lawyers and journalists have been caught up in Xi’s crackdown on dissent. “China is not the land of peace, prosperity, complacency and rapid advancement that you imagine in your dreams,” he wrote in his open letter to Xi in 2020. “I am deeply concerned about the future of our nation; I am afraid that such a closed system is a dangerously fragile system; and I am concerned that there is no meaningful or substantive form of civil society that can address the situation. Teng, who has known him for two decades, said Xu was a “central figure” in China’s civil rights movement. “The movement and civil society in general are going through a cold winter, a trend that has shown no signs of improving. The repression of human rights by the Communist Party is going to continue for many years,” he said. Ding Jiaxi, a human rights lawyer and co-founder of the New Citizens Movement, will be tried in the same Linshu county court in Shandong province on Friday on subversion charges, his wife said on Twitter. “The Chinese authorities targeted Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi not because they have committed any internationally recognized crimes, but simply because they hold opinions that the government does not like. These unfair trials are a heinous attack on their human rights,” said Gwen Lee, an activist of Amnesty International for China. “Having suffered torture and other ill-treatment during their arbitrary detention, Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi now face years behind bars in secret trials that have been rigged from the start.”
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