China rights lawyer Xie Yang denied own defence for trial

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Originally published by Hong Kong Free Press on April 22, 2017

Prominent Chinese lawyer Xie Yang will not be allowed to pick his defence at his upcoming trial, his former attorney said, in a move rights groups called a breach of international standards.

Xie, who has worked on numerous cases considered politically sensitive by the ruling Communist party including defending Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, has been detained since July 2015.

He has claimed police have used “sleep deprivation, long interrogations, beatings, death threats, humiliations” on him while in custody, and the EU has voiced concern over his case.

“The court has designated a defence lawyer,” Xie’s former lawyer Chen Jiangang told AFP.

“Everything has been done according to the will of the judiciary — not the interests of Xie and his family,” Chen said.

The trial — possibly on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” — will be held Tuesday at the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court in southern Hunan province, Chen added.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has overseen a tightening of controls on civil society since assuming power in 2012, closing avenues for legal activism that had opened up in recent years.

While the government initially targeted political activists and human rights campaigners, it has increasingly turned its attention to the legal professionals who represent them.

“Since Xi came to power, we have seen more cases of lawyers being warned or blocked from representing high-profile human rights cases,” Amnesty International China researcher Patrick Poon said.

“It’s a self-contradictory practice and an insult to the lawyer originally representing the defendant,” Poon said.

Xie was arrested during the so-called “709 crackdown” in the summer of 2015, which saw some 200 legal staff and activists detained.

Last year, Chinese courts–during televised trials–found six of the group guilty of serious crimes including “subverting state power” and “endangering national security”.

Their punishments ranged from no additional jail time to seven years in prison, while others have been released on bail.

After his July 2015 arrest, Xie was initially held incommunicado for six months, and later moved to a detention centre.

In December, he was indicted on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” and “disrupting court order”, according to US-based charity Chinese Human Rights Defenders .

Chen said he could not confirm whether those charges are the most recent, and Xie’s new lawyer did not answer calls from AFP on Saturday.


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