Two prominent human rights activists, Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi, were handed 14- and 12-year prison terms on April 10 (Monday), after already being held for three years and having previously been sentenced for various political “crimes.”
The two are key figures in the New Citizens Movement, an initiative started by Xu, 50, in 2010. The movement calls upon Chinese of all backgrounds to exercise their human rights as citizens despite the misrule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which regularly violates many of those rights despite their being guaranteed in China’s constitution.
In statements released and translated shortly before their verdicts, Xu and Ding remained defiant, with Xu calling for “a beautiful China” with human rights and democracy to be “realized in our time,” and Ding saying that “authoritarianism shall perish.”
“I have a dream … of a democratic China that belongs to everyone on this land, not to any one ethnicity or political party,” Xu said, reiterating his wish for rule of law and political pluralism, as translated by human rights website China Change.
“I long for a nation full of love, a China free from the darkness of its ancient fears; a people of faith who respect heaven and love humanity, aware that ‘there are deities watching three feet above one’s head’ (頭頂三尺有神明); a people who believe in the interdependency of life and that we all are born of — and shall return to — the same spiritual wellspring,” Xu wrote in his statement.
Ding, meanwhile, stressed the inevitability of the regime’s collapse, writing, “I see the day when the people of China wake up from their extreme slavery, see through the myriad injustices interwoven with moralizing deceit, and realize the true reality. Once the people no longer trust in and obey with their authoritarian rule, the dictatorship and its privileged interest groups will disintegrate.”
An engineer by training, Ding Jiaxi, who is now 55, changed careers to study law and help disenfranchised Chinese, particularly those from the countryside who could not find equal education opportunities for their children due to the CCP’s draconian rural-urban household registration system.
The two activists were sentenced in Shandong Province, eastern China.
Previously, Xu and Ding had been in prison from 2013 to 2017. They were re-arrested in late 2019 (Ding) and early 2020 (Xu), and their trial began in June 2022.