Secret trial for Chinese rights activist who called Xi Jinping ‘not smart enough’

The move comes as the ruling Communist Party doubles down on discontent ahead of a crucial meeting this fall, when Xi is expected to tighten his grip on power with an almost unprecedented third term.

Xu Xiong, a veteran civil rights activist and legal scholar, pleaded not guilty before a local court in Linshu County, eastern Shandong province, in a day-long hearing that was closed to the public on the grounds that “there State secrets were involved.”

A person with direct knowledge of the case said the court said at the end of the trial that the sentence would be announced “at a later date”.

Supporters and rights groups called the trial “extremely unfair” and the allegations “immediate”.

“Such a political case has nothing to do with law or evidence. The entire trial process is dominated by the political forces behind the court,” said Teng Biao, a prominent Chinese human rights lawyer now based in the United States. , he said. “It is a political trial and political persecution.”

Teng said Xu was likely to receive a heavy sentence, as it would be the second time he was jailed. In 2014, Xu was four years in prison For “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order”.

“For political prisoners, the second prison term is usually longer than the first,” Teng said.

open letter

Xu, 49, was detained in February 2020 after nearly two months of hiding in the southern city of Guangzhou. He was one of several rights activists rounded up by authorities after a private gathering in the southeastern city of Xiamen in December 2019.

While running away, Xu released an open letter to Xi, calling on him to resign – an apparently blunt appeal that was increasingly censored on the Chinese Internet. Publicly calling on a leader to step down is an extremely risky act in China, where political dissent is tightly suppressed and punished, especially under Xi’s leadership.
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In his letter, Xu launched a scathing attack on Xi’s policies, from tightening Communist Party control over the economy to the suppression of independence in Hong Kong and his handling of the initial COVID outbreak in Wuhan.

He wrote, “I don’t think you’re a bad person. You’re not smart enough.” “Therefore, I urge you again – which I believe is also a widely held sentiment: Mr. Xi Jinping, please step down.”

US-based legal activist Teng said the open letter probably accused Xu of sabotage – the most serious political crime, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

“(Since) Xi came to power, he has consolidated his dictatorship and fostered a personality cult around him. It was incredibly brave for Xu to write a letter calling for Xi’s resignation in China – but certain Obviously, the authorities will never tolerate such articles,” Teng said.

a central figure

Xu, a former university lecturer with a doctorate in law from the prestigious Peking University, first came to prominence in 2003, when he took up the case of a university student who was beaten to death in custody in Guangzhou. His campaign, along with many other legal scholars, led the Chinese government to dismantle a notorious system in which rural migrants in large cities were arbitrarily detained, fined, and expelled by police.

In 2010, he co-founded the New Citizens Movement with like-minded activists, including Teng, to advocate for civil rights and political reform.

Since his release from prison in 2017, Xu has continued to speak on political and social matters, publishing edgy essays on his personal blog, even among his fellow activists, legal scholars, human rights lawyers and journalists. Caught in the trap of a growing list of Xi’s toughness on dissent.

“China is not the land of peace, prosperity, self-congratulation and rapid progress you imagine,” he wrote. his open letter For Xi in 2020.

“I am deeply concerned about the future of my country; I fear that a system that has perished so firmly that one is dangerously brittle; and, I am concerned that there will be any meaningful or real form of civil society.” There is no one who can deal with the situation.”

Teng, who had known Xu for two decades, said Xu was a “central figure” in China’s civil rights movement. “The movement and broader civil society are in the grip of a cold – a trend that has shown no signs of improvement. The Communist Party’s crackdown on human rights is set to continue for many years to come,” he said. .

Ding Jiaxi, a human rights lawyer and co-founder of the New Citizens Movement, will stand trial for sabotage Friday in the same court in Linshu County, Shandong Province, as his wife. said on twitter,

Amnesty International’s China campaigner said, “Chinese authorities have targeted Xu Xiong and Ding Jiaxi not because they have committed an internationally recognized crime, but simply because they hold views that the government does not like.” This unfair trial is a serious attack on their human rights.” Gwen Lee.

“After experiencing torture and other abuse during their arbitrary detention, Xu Xiong and Ding Jiaxi now face behind bars in secret trials that were rigged from the beginning.”