LONDON (Bywire News) - China is set to put two prominent lawyers on trial on charges of state subversion. The trial which is set to take place behind closed doors this week is part of a clampdown on dissent and rights activism under President Xi Jinping.
Relatives of Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi say they will stand trial in Linshu County Court in the North Eastern Province of Shandong on Wednesday and Friday. Although both have been allowed legal representation, visits from others including diplomats and relatives have not been allowed. Their lawyers are said to have been warned against speaking to the media.
No notice of the upcoming trials appears on the court’s social media pages and it did not respond to requests for comment. There has also been no response so far from the Chinese Justice Minister.
Both lawyers – Xu, 49, and Ding, 54 – are leading figures in the new Citizens Movement which called for greater transparency into the wealth of officials and for the right to exercise civil rights as written in the country’s constitution.
According to a statement from Amnesty International, The two were targeted after attending an informal gathering in the South Eastern city of Xiamen in late 2019 with other friends and activists.
On February 4th 2020, XU penned an open letter calling for the resignation of President Xi due to his handling of a number of crises including the Hong Kong protests at the start of the pandemic. Xu disappeared in February 2020 shortly after writing the letter. Ding had already gone missing the previous December. However, it was not until June 19th 2020 that both were formally arrested.
“Our families are of course upset and angry,” said Luo Shengchun, Ding's wife. “This is a naked case of injustice and persecution.”
Rights groups have called the trials a "sham".
"The reason that the men are being locked up and charged with ridiculous 'subversion' crimes is because they dare to envision a different China and to demand the country to be free and just," said Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.
China rejects criticisms of its record on human rights describing itself instead as a country which has a strong rule of law. Jailed rights lawyers and activists, they say, are criminals.
(Writing by Samba Jallow, editing by Tom Cropper and Klaudia Fior)