Independent investigative journalist sentenced for multiple charges

Independent investigative journalist Shangguan Yunkai (上官云开) was convicted on multiple charges and sentenced to a combined imprisonment of 15 years by the Hubei Ezhou Echeng District People’s Court on January 5, 2024.

Shangguang was a reporter for Legal Daily stationed in Hubei. The paper is an official publication focused on legal news under the direction of Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission. During his tenure, his exposure of corrupt officials made him well known and a target. He later turned to independent investigative reporting and continued to focus on corruption in the Wuhan region.

Shangguan was initially detained for selling counterfeit medicines on April 21, 2023. The crime of picking quarrels and provoking trouble (PQPT) was added when he was formally arrested on May 17.

According to a screenshot of a partial judgment posted online, Shangguan was convicted of multiple crimes, including PQPT, illegal confinement, selling counterfeit medicines, and bigamy. The sentence will expire on April 19, 2038.

Li Qiaochu trial commenced & suspended

On December 19, the inciting subversion trial of feminist labor rights activist Li Qiaochu (李翘楚) resumed at the Linyi Economic and Technological Development Zone People’s Court since it commenced in June. The trial was closed and the family was again denied entry to the courtroom.

On December 21, the trial was suspended again after the authorities fired her defense team. One of her lawyers refused to submit to being searched before entering the courtroom. Another lawyer already inside left the courtroom in protest after his requests to summon defense witnesses and to access the prosecution’s evidence were denied. He asked Li to dismiss him because of his inability to perform his duties as defense counsel.

Li was detained in 2021 after posting to social media torture allegations made by her partner Xu Zhiyong, who is serving his 14-year jail term for subversion. Li is known to suffer from serious symptoms of depression and auditory hallucinations.

Shanxi lawyer briefly taken by police without cause

A Weibo post by Beijing lawyer Wang Xing on January 8 alarmed many, particularly those in legal circles, when Wang claimed that the Shanxi lawyer Yan Suying (闫素英) was taken from her home by Taiyuan police. Yan specializes in duty crimes and has written many online posts highlighting her experiences when defending corruption cases, including being unable to visit a defendant who was under liuzhi (留置, a type of detention often used to extract confessions), interference with discipline commissions, and the inability to introduce evidence).

Yan is currently working on a case that is very personal to her. She is co-defense counsel with Wang Xing, in the case of Han Jianzhong, Yan’s husband. Han, the former party secretary of the Taiyuan Water Conservancy and Construction Institute, was accused of embezzlement and serious violation of rules. He was placed under investigation in December 2020.

It is not uncommon in China for family members of defendants in corruption cases to face harassment from police. Nor is it uncommon for lawyers working on these cases to receive pressure from authorities attempting to ensure conviction of the case.

In his earlier Weibo post, Wang speculated that Yan’s summons originated from her dual roles as defense counsel and wife of Han. Yan’s sister was also summoned by police at the same time.

Han updated her status on Weibo on January 10, saying that she was released late at night and able to return home. Her mobile phone is still confiscated.

A member of Church of Almighty God in Guangdong released after receiving clemency

Shi Dongfang (石栋方), a member of the Church of Almighty God (CAG), was granted a one-month sentence reduction, thus completing her sentence on December 9, 2023.

This was the second reduction granted to Shi, now in her late 50s. She previously received a seven-month reduction in 2022. Shi, a resident of Fengkai County, was convicted of using a cult to undermine the implementation of the law by the Zhongshan Number One People’s Court in 2018 and sentenced to seven years. Her appeal was rejected by the Zhongshan Intermediate People’s Court in 2019. In the judgment, Shi was accused of actively being involved in the spread of CAG gospel and storing a large amount of propaganda materials at her home.

After learning about Shi’s case, Dui Hua made four inquiries to its interlocutors in China during 2023. The latest clemency decision claims that Shi demonstrated remorse for her crime, vigorously participated in reform through labor, and accepted ideological rehabilitation.

Preacher of Chengdu Early Rain Church detained and released on bail

After more than one year in detention, Dai Zhichao (戴志超), a pastor of the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, was reportedly released on bail on January 9, 2024. This is the third time he has been detained in the past four years.

House churches in China face pressure from authorities to comply and join the patriotic three-self-love churches. Leaders of house churches are routinely harassed or even face legal repression. Wang Yi (王怡), founding pastor of the Early Rain Church, was convicted of inciting subversion—an endangering state security crime—and illegal business activities in 2019 and sentenced to nine years of imprisonment with three years of deprivation of political rights.

Dai was placed under criminal detention for PQPT in December 2018, when the church was first raided. He was released on bail in March 2019. In August 2021, the authority placed Dai under administrative detention for 14 days for holding a Sunday gathering at his home. The latest trouble began in September 2022, when Dai was taken into custody. He was formally placed in criminal detention for PQPT in December 2022. However, he was never indicted or brought to trial.

Inciting subversion sentence for human rights lawyer upheld

On December 29, 2023, the Guangxi High People’s Court upheld the five-year prison sentence for Qin Yongpei (覃永沛). Qin was convicted in March 2023 of inciting subversion, a crime stemming from his legal career spanning more than a decade as a human rights lawyer. He founded the Guangxi Baijuming Law Firm and took up cases involving unlawful administrative detention, forced demolition, and wrongful convictions. Qin was a legal counsel to other rights lawyers during the 2015 “7.09” crack down, including Chen Taihe. Despite having his lawyer’s license revoked in May 2018, Qin founded a “Post-Lawyer Club” to provide support and aid to other rights lawyers who had their licenses revoked.

Qin is scheduled for release on October 30, 2024.