Trials began Tuesday in Tianjin for human rights lawyers and activists arrested during the crackdown last July, and things are not going well.
Prior to the start of the trials, Wang Yu, a member of the Fengrui Law Firm, confessed to giving in to manipulation by foreign forces and “darkening the name of the Chinese government.” While it is said she has been released, neither Wang’s lawyer nor her mother have any knowledge of her whereabouts.
Coerced confession videos of this type are not uncommon. Jerome A. Cohen, professor in the New York University School of Law, argues these confessions are frighteningly “reminiscent of the ‘brainwashing’ era of the 1950s for which the new China became infamous.”
Yesterday, Zhai Yanmin, also associated with the Fengrui Law Firm, was tried by the No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court, convicted of taking action to subvert the authority of the state, and sentenced to three years in prison, four years of probation, and the full deprivation of political rights for up to four years. This is a light sentence given that the maximum penalty for subversion of state power is life imprisonment.
Earlier Wednesday, Hu Shigen, said to be in league with Zhai, was awarded 7.5 years in prison for running an underground church. He was accused of conspiring with Zhai and other criminal activists to undermine the state. It was said that they “established a systematic ideology, method, and steps to approve it.”
Impacted by “bourgeois liberalism,” Hu said he fell “deeper and deeper in to the criminal mire of anti-Party and anti-government groups.”
Hu served 14 years of a 20-year prison sentence from 1994 to 2008 for counter-revolutionary behavior, and now he’s on his way back for crimes against the state.
These trials have been shrouded in a significant amount of secrecy from the beginning, eliciting strong responses from families and friends of the activists, many of which protested outside the No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court in Tianjin. Reports indicate that this level of secrecy is uncommon. Jiang Tianyong, a human rights lawyer in Beijing, said, “This is unprecedented…From beginning to end, it’s a black box.”
The recent trials come only a month and a half after the Chinese government released a report stating it had successfully achieved the goals outlined in its National Human Rights Action Plan 2012-2015.
Two other human rights lawyers associated with the Fengrui Law Firm are still awaiting trial, and 20 of the more than 300 human rights activists arrested during the massive crackdown last year are still being detained.
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