Chinese Human Rights Lawyer Sentenced to 4 Years Prison in Secret Trial

A video grab of Xu Yan protesting the detention of her husband Yu Wensheng. (Image: YouTube / DW)
A video grab of Xu Yan protesting the detention of her husband Yu Wensheng. (Image: YouTube / DW)

The family of Chinese human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng has learned that he has been secretly sentenced to four years jail for “inciting subversion of state power.”

Yu’s wife, Xu Yan, received a phone call from the People’s Procuratorate of Xuzhou City on June 17, said a joint statement from rights and civic groups, including the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, Paris Bar Association, and Lawyers for Lawyers.

The collective statement said that Yu, 53, was sentenced during a secret trial in May 2019. Along with his 4-year jail sentence, he is to be deprived of political rights for a further three years.

Yu had been held in detention since being arrested while he was taking his teenage son to school on January 19, 2018. Earlier, he had “published a post asking for the National Congress of the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] to remove Xi Jinping from office and for constitutional reform to improve the legal and political systems,” the statement said.

During his detention, Yu “was deprived of his right to meet with his family and with the defense lawyers appointed by him or his family,” the statement added.

One of the signatories of the statement, Lawyers for Lawyers, pointed out that what occurred to Yu was “contrary to Chinese procedural law.”

Watch this DW report from November 2019 on what Xu has endured while her husband is imprisoned. The report includes the experiences of other families.  

In a separate statement, the human rights group Amnesty International said that neither Yu’s wife nor his lawyer knew about the trial.

Amnesty described Yu as a prominent Beijing human rights lawyer who has represented fellow human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang and Falun Gong practitioners, among others.

Yu was also previously detained for 99 days in 2014 after voicing his support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. He told Amnesty that he was tortured in detention.

“Yu Wensheng’s sentencing is nothing but political persecution dressed up as legal process,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific regional director.

“Not only was Yu prosecuted under baseless charges for the lawful and legitimate work he was conducting as a lawyer, his own lawyer was not even permitted to attend the sentencing hearing,” Bequelin said.

“While the Chinese government’s zero-tolerance policy towards critics is well-known, the secret sentencing of yet another human rights lawyer marks a new low for what is left of the rule of law in China.”

The European Union has also voiced its concerns over what has occurred to Yu and to others. “We call for the immediate release of Yu Wensheng, as well as other detained and convicted human rights lawyers and other human rights defenders including Huang Qi, Li Yuhan, Ge Jueping, Qin Yongmin, Gao Zhisheng, Ilham Tohti, Tashi Wangchuk, Wu Gan and Liu Feiyue,” said a European Union spokesperson.

In April, human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, who was arrested in the “709” crackdown in 2015, was released after almost five years in jail for “subverting state power.” Watch Wang reunite with his wife and son below:

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