BEIJING (Reuters) — A prominent Chinese rights lawyer was sentenced to two years jail on Tuesday after being found guilty of inciting subversion of state power, the latest in a series of similar verdicts amid a sweeping crackdown on activism.
In a verdict posted on its official Weibo microblog on Tuesday morning, the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court said the lawyer, Jiang Tianyong, developed notions of overthrowing China’s political system after being influenced by training workshops held by “anti-China foreign forces” overseas.
The court said Jiang, 46, used social media to “attack or defame” Chinese government departments and incited others to gather and demonstrate in public.
Jiang’s wife, Jin Bianling, who lives in the United States, told Reuters on Tuesday that the verdict was “unacceptable” and that she believed her husband was being made an example to “deter or repress” other rights lawyers.
“I do not acknowledge or accept this verdict,” she said in a telephone interview. “Jiang Tianyong is innocent”.
Jiang, who was disbarred in 2009 after taking on sensitive cases such as defending practitioners of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, had been outspoken in criticising an ongoing government crackdown on dissent that has seen hundreds of rights lawyers and activists sentenced or detained since mid-2015.
The verdict was handed down exactly one year after Jiang first disappeared last November while visiting the family of another detained rights lawyer. He was held incommunicado for six months before being formally charged.
The facts in the court’s ruling were broadly similar to those in a confession made by Jiang during his trial in August. Video footage of Jiang reading parts of a written statement were released by the court via social media at the time.
But rights groups said the trial was a show trial designed to discredit him and that Jiang was caught up in a sweeping campaign directed against lawyers and activists.
Jin said Jiang’s family was unable to appoint their own lawyers and that she had not been able to contact Jiang since his detention. “We don’t know what his conditions are inside, or what kind of torture of mistreatment he has suffered,” she said.
The Chinese authorities have video-streamed or live-blogged increasing numbers of court hearings in recent years as part of a push towards judicial transparency.
But rights activists say that in sensitive cases the hearings are only selectively made available when the defendant has already agreed to go along with a pre-prepared outcome.