China gives human rights lawyer three-year suspended sentence

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Originally published by Jurist on April 28, 2017

The Second Intermediate People’s Court in Tianjin [official website] on Friday gave human rights lawyer Li Heping [advocacy profile] a three-year suspended sentence for subversion. He has been in jail since being detained in the summer of 2015. Heping represented many high-profile defendants including practitioners of the banned religion Falun Gong [oranization website]. His subversion conviction stemmed from a charge of endangering national security and social stability by working with religious groups and other lawyers to “attack” the government. The trial was closed to the public to prevent the disclosure of state secrets, according [NYT report] to a statement from the court. Heping’s sentence was suspended for four years, which means he may be released but effectively prevents him from returning to his job as a human rights lawyer.

China has faced continued international criticism for its treatment of human rights defenders, ranging from filing of arbitrary criminal charges, suspension or dismissal of law licenses, and disappearances. In February, the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders released its annual report [JURIST report] highlighting intensified crackdowns on human rights defenders. In December the UN called on China to investigate the disappearance of human rights lawyer [JURIST report] Jiang Tianyong, after he had been missing for two months. The same month China suspended the law license [JURIST report] of prominent human rights lawyer Li Jinxing, over his apparent allegedly unacceptable behavior in court while defending a client. Last September China handed down a 12 year sentence [JURIST report] to prominent human rights lawyer Xia Lin. In July China announced plans to prosecute [JURIST report] prominent human rights lawyer Zhou Shifeng on charges of subverting state power, furthering its recent crackdown on political dissidents.

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