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China blasted for rights activist’s trial

Li Qiaochu targeted for her labor and women's rights activism and for criticizing the communist regime, Amnesty says
Li Qiaochu

Li Qiaochu (Amnesty International)

Published: December 19, 2023 11:48 AM GMT
Updated: December 19, 2023 11:55 AM GMT

China’s communist regime has come under fire from global rights group Amnesty International for resuming the trial of a top activist for labor and women's rights activism and criticizing the government policies.

The trial of Li Qiaochu is an attempt by Chinese authorities to put a “veneer of legitimacy over years of harassment” against her, Sarah Brooks, head of the London-based watchdog’s China team, said in a statement.

“In reconvening Li Qiaochu’s trial, Chinese authorities are trying to put a veneer of legitimacy over years of harassment and detention aimed at silencing her peaceful dissent,” Brooks said on Dec. 19.

The trial on the charge of “inciting subversion of state power” had “vanishingly thin evidence” that amounted to little more than guilt by association, she said.

Brooks urged the Chinese authorities to release Li “immediately and unconditionally.”

“Li Qiaochu is on trial solely for exercising her right to freedom of expression,” Brooks said.

Li’s trial was scheduled to resume on Dec. 19 at the Linyi Economic and Technological Development Zone People’s Court.

She faces a jail term of five years or longer if convicted for alleged incitement. However, “there is no clarity,” on the date for the release of the judgment, Amnesty reported.

Li’s activism and research primarily focus on women’s rights and worker’s rights.

On Dec. 31, 2019, the police summoned Li and held her in custody for 24 hours at the Beijing Public Security Bureau.

She was questioned about the whereabouts of her partner Xu Zhiyong, who had attended an informal gathering of activists in the southeastern city of Xiamen earlier that month.

She was later arrested in February 2020 for criticizing the police’s treatment towards her and was held incommunicado under “residential surveillance at a designated location,” a move used by officials to hold individuals for up to six months outside the formal detention system.

She was released on bail in June 2020 before being arrested again in March 2021 on incitement charges after she tweeted about the harsh conditions at Linshu County Detention Center, where Xu Zhiyong was detained.

Xu Zhiyong is a prominent legal scholar and human rights activist committed to civil rights advocacy in China.

Xu was among the dozens of lawyers and activists who attended an informal gathering held in Xiamen, a city on China’s southeast coast, in December 2019, in which they discussed the civil society situation and current affairs in China.

The police later began summoning and detaining the meeting attendees including Xu who was later detained in February 2020.

He was charged with “subversion of state power” and was sentenced to a lengthy 14-year jail term in April 2023.

During the period from Xu’s detention to his sentencing, he and the other detainees were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment.

“Li should not suffer retaliation for speaking out against torture or publicizing views at odds with those of the government,” Brooks said.

“The Chinese authorities must launch an independent investigation into her allegations and ensure she is not subject to further ill-treatment,” Brooks added.

She further urged the Chinese authorities to permit Li to see her family and lawyers of her choice and seek adequate medical care.

Brooks pointed out that human rights defenders in China continue to face intimidation, harassment, arbitrary detention, as well as torture and other ill-treatment.

“Li’s trial highlights the deeply repressive environment for anyone who tries to advocate for human rights in China, even when their activities are entirely peaceful and protected under international law,” Brooks said.

Amnesty alleged that the harassment meted out to the activists was also extended to their family members and colleagues.

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