Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

China Arrests Human Rights Lawyer Xie Yang, Charges Him With Subversion

Alina Wang
A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights, politics, tech, and society.
Published: February 24, 2022
Human rights attorney Xie Yang (L) with his wife Chen Guiqiu in an undated picture. (Image: via Front Line Defenders/Screenshot)

Chinese authorities in the south central province of Hunan have moved to formally arrest human rights lawyer Xie Yang under charges of “subversion.”

Xie, 44, was first reported missing on Jan. 11 by his wife Chen Guiqiu. According to an inside source, close friends of the lawyer believe he was first detained by state security in Changsha, the capital city of Hunan Province.

On Jan. 13, his wife Chen Guiqiu told the Chinese edition of The Epoch Times that she found out about Xie’s arrest by State Security staff on the 11th. “The last time I talked to Xie Yang was on the morning of the 10th, Beijing time. I would normally call him and pray for him in the mornings. On the 11th, the phone couldn’t get through.”

She tried reaching him again on Jan. 13, but the call went straight to voicemail. Chen believed state security had confiscated his phone.

According to a notice sent by the Changsha police department to Xie’s family, it was revealed that the human rights attorney was formally arrested on Feb. 17 under suspicions of “incitement to subvert state power,” Radio Free Asia reported.

The notice added that Xie is currently being held at the Changsha No. 1 Detention Center and is awaiting trial.

Multiple attempts on his life   

In August 2020, the Justice Department of Hunan Province announced that Xie would have his license to practice law revoked after “multiple occasions of disrupting court order” – referencing his work defending marginalized groups in China. The department also added that he had posted multiple comments on social media that were “defamatory and endangered national security.”

Xie was first arrested in the central city of Hongjiang on July 11, 2015, on the third day of what human rights activists in China described as an unprecedented assault on civil rights attorneys in the country. During this time, Xie was repeatedly tortured and interrogated by authorities and told he would be beaten to the point of “being a cripple” due to his work defending marginalized and disenfranchised groups in China. 

The event, known as the “709 Crackdown,” saw the arrests of more than 300 lawyers and human rights activists who were detained, interrogated and imprisoned by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in July 2015. 

After standing trial in late 2017, Xie revealed that he pled guilty to “charges of subversion” and “disruption of public order” in exchange for an early release. However, before being released, he was told his freedom was contingent upon him retracting statements saying he had been tortured while in detention.

Xie first landed on the Chinese regime’s radar after defending a number of politically sensitive cases. One of his clients included a group of people involved in the New Citizens Movement – a civil rights movement that started a decade ago to encourage China’s transition into a civil, democratic society.

After his disbarment, Xie said he tried multiple times to overturn the government’s decision but was unsuccessful. “There is very little chance of success but I have to exercise my right of defense,” Xie said in 2017.

Holding the CCP accountable

Despite the repeated arrests and attempts on his life, Xie never stopped advocating for oppressed voices in China. His work also included defending Falun Gong practitioners, land grab victims and survivors of HIV.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a Chinese traditional spiritual discipline practiced by tens of millions of people in China and around the world since its introduction to the public in 1992.

In July 1999, the CCP launched a massive campaign to eradicate the popular faith, incarcerating millions of people over the following decades. Thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have since died from torture and abuse, with the number still on the rise. Many Falun Gong followers have also been subject to relentless harassment, arrests and arbitrary imprisonment.


In December of last year, Xie offered assistance to Li Tiantian, a 27-year-old pregnant elementary teacher who was forcefully committed to a mental institution after criticizing government authorities in the firing of university lecturer Song Gengyi on Dec. 17, 2021.

Sources in China believe Xie’s arrest may have been connected to Li’s case after he traveled to rural Hunan Province in hopes of helping the young school teacher. The source also added that his arrest was done quietly because there wasn’t enough evidence to officially charge him with at the time.

The CCP has a long track record of arresting, imprisoning and torturing human rights lawyers and activists in the country, as well as imposing arbitrary restrictions on freedom of movement –  including both domestic and international travel bans.