After more than two years in custody, two activists sentenced in Guangzhou

In mid-November 2020, a crackdown of activists took place in Guangzhou. Several people – among them veteran pro-democracy activist Fan Yiping (范一平), Hu Tianfeng (胡天峰), and Lai Jianjun (赖⻅君) – were placed under residential surveillance in a designated location (RSDL) for subversion. Later, two others were reportedly detained and arrested for the same charge: Fan Wencheng (范文成) and Wei Ya’ni (⻙亚妮), the only woman known to be detained in this case.

All five had been indicted in August 2021. A closed trial took place sometime in April 2022 at Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court.

More than a year later, sentencings of the two activists were reported. In early June, Fang Yiping was sentenced to four years following a conviction for subversion, and Hu Tianfeng was sentenced to two years and eight months. Fang is expected to be released in November 2024 while Hu’s release is expected to take place in September 2023.

The fates of the other three activists remain unknown.

Nearly a year after trial, rights lawyer sentenced in Shaanxi Province

Chang Weiping (常玮平), a well-known rights lawyer, was convicted of subversion and sentenced to three and a half years by Baoji Intermediate People’s Court on June 8, 2023.

Chang attended a private gathering in Shenzhen at the end of 2019. Among the participants were Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi, who were recently sentenced. Chang was placed under RSDL in January 2020 for “endangering state security” and released ten days later.

However, after posting a video online detailing his harsh treatment while in RSDL, Chang was again placed under RSDL in October 2020 and formally arrested in April 2021 for inciting subversion, a crime of endangering state security.

Chang was tried by Baoji Intermediate Court in a closed trial at the Feng County Court on July 26, 2022. The sentencing was also announced at the county court. When the trial commenced, Chang’s wife, Chen Zijuan, was prevented from attending the hearing. Several activists and supporters were also detained.

According to the law, every two days under RSDL is counted as one day served for imprisonment. Chang’s sentence is expected to expire in July 2024.

Legal scholar & activist remains in judicial limbo after more than three years of detention

Hao Jinsong (郝劲松), a graduate of China University of Political Science and Law turned legal activist, remains at the Wutai County Detention Center in Shanxi for picking quarrels and provoking trouble (PQPT) and defamation since January 2, 2020.

Hao gained prominence when he launched several lawsuits against government agencies for practices that he deemed unlawful, including the State Administration of Taxation and several railroad operators.

In 2017, Hao reported on possible environmental pollution by a textile factory in Dingxiang County, Shanxi. He was first placed under administrative detention in December 2019, then criminally detained for PQPT on January 2, 2020. A charge of defamation was added when he was arrested, and an additional fraud charge was added during the indictment.

A trial reportedly took place in October 2021 at the Dingxiang Country Court. However, no conviction or sentence has been issued.

Li Qiaochu inciting subversion trial commenced in Linyi

More than two years after being detained and more than a year after being indicted, the trial of rights activist Li Qiaochu (李翘楚) for inciting subversion reportedly commenced on June 19, 2023.

Luo Shengchun, wife of lawyer Ding Jiaxi, posted a trial hearing notice on her Twitter account. Luo also claims that Li’s mother was told the trial would be closed to the public and her request for a post-trial meeting with Li was rejected.

The 32-year-old Li, though often referred to in the media by her relationship with Xu Zhiyong, is a long-time labor rights advocate whose activism began in her college years. Multiple sources have raised concerns over Li’s health. Despite being diagnosed with depression and prescribed long-term medication to treat the illness, the family said Li has not received proper care while in custody.

In the indictment filed by the Shandong Linyi People’s Procuratorate, Li’s relationship to Xu was seen as the cause of her subversive thinking. Her crime, summarized in a short paragraph, was allegedly committed under the influence of her boyfriend as she operated a personal blog for Xu and posted numerous alleged subversive articles written by him.

The trial is being held at the Linyi Economic and Technological Development Zone District Court by the Linyi Intermediate People’s Court, which convicted and sentenced Ding and Xu to lengthy terms for subversion in April 2023. At the time of writing, Li has lost her own legal representation after one of her lawyers was barred from entering the courtroom for refusing to comply with a security check. Another lawyer resigned in protest of the court’s refusal to summon witnesses and grant him access to case documents.

Activist’s trial in Shanghai for posting anti-pandemic lockdown messages postponed

Activist Ji Xiaolong (季孝龙) is being tried in Shanghai for the second time. Originally scheduled to begin on June 21, 2023, the trial has reportedly been postponed.

Ji has been indicted for PQPT by the Pudong New District People’s Procuratorate. The charge is a “pocket crime” often used against activists based on vague or trumped-up “criminal activities” that have “negative impacts on society.”

Ji is accused of posting and reposting large numbers of content with “false information” on overseas social media platforms between April and August 2022. The procuratorate claims those posts seriously harmed the national image. Shanghai, like many places in China, had a prolonged lockdown in many parts of the city during the spring of 2022 to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ji was detained and released on bail on May 1, 2022 then formally detained on August 31 and arrested on September 23, 2022. The indictment also accused Ji of remaining active online while on bail and continuing to post false information.

Ji was convicted of the same crime in 2019 by the same court and sentenced to three and a half years in prison. In 2018, he gained attention by writing anti-CCP graffiti on restroom walls in public buildings and posting photos on overseas social media platforms.

Legal activist released from Tianjin

Wu Gan (吳淦), better known by his online alias “Super Vulgar Butcher 超级低俗屠夫”, was released in May 2023 after serving his full eight-year prison sentence. Wu worked at Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, which was established by lawyer Zhou Shifeng and partners such as well-known rights lawyers Wang Yu and Liu Xiaoyuan. Although not a licensed lawyer, Wu gained prominence for advocating on behalf of the socially vulnerable. He also attracted controversy for staging vocal protests outside courthouses and government buildings against unfair treatment of lawyers and defendants.

On May 20, 2015, Wu staged a protest outside the Jiangxi High People’s Court in Nanchang when the court denied the lawyers of three falsely accused defendants access to case documents. Wu was placed under administrative detention for ten days but was criminally detained on May 27 for PQPT and defamation. The charges were changed to inciting subversion and PQPT when Wu was arrested by the Xiamen Public Security Bureau in July 2015.

The case then was transferred to Tianjin where it became part of the nation-wide crackdown on rights lawyers that would become known as the “7.09 arrests.” Wu was convicted of subversion and PQPT and sentenced to eight years with five years of deprivation of political rights (DPR) by the Tianjin Number Two Intermediate People’s Court in December 2017.

The same court also sentenced six other lawyers and activists — Zha Yanmin, Hu Shigen, Zhou Shifeng, Gou Hongguo, Li Heping, and Wang Quanzhang — for subversion between August 2016 and January 2019. In a letter to a friend after his release, Wu confirmed that he was safe and sound. However, while serving the supplemental sentence of DPR, he will likely be under strict monitoring and surveillance.

Freelance journalist reportedly missing in Laos

Qiao Xinxin (乔鑫鑫), a young activist who fled China in 2013, has been reported missing in Laos since the evening of June 4, 2023. Friends fear that he might have been taken away by China state security agents.

Qiao drew international attention when he and several dissidents launched the online movement “Ban the GFW” (Chinese: 拆墙运动 lit. tearing down the Great Fire Wall) in early 2023. They sent mass messages on social media platforms promoting techniques and tools to circumvent the firewall and evade censorship. Prior to his disappearance, he claimed that his family in Hunan were warned and threatened.

Qiao also works as a freelance journalist for Radio Free Asia.

Yang Maodong’s appeal rejected

Guangdong High People’s Court rejected Yang Maodong’s (杨茂东) appeal and upheld the judgment in a closed trial on June 26, 2023, Yang’s sister says.

Yang was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment and three years of DPR for inciting subversion by Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court on May 11, 2023. He was accused of publishing critical essays online. 

This will be Yang’s third prison sentence since 2006. He previously was sentenced to five years for illegal business activity in 2007. From 2013 to August 2019, he served six years for PQPT and gathering a crowd to disrupt a public place.

Yang is expected to be released in December 2029.