Over the course of seven days, lawsuits against people of different backgrounds have revealed the oppressive and unpredictable nature of the Chinese legal system. Reporters, advocates, thinkers, and religious figures from various regions such as mainland China, Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong all faced consequences from a justice system controlled by the easily provoked Chinese Communist Party, which does not tolerate any perceived threats to its power.
Journalist Sophia Huang Xueqin and labor activist Wang Jianbing were put on trial for “inciting subversion” in Guangzhou on Friday, September 22. The trial was held behind closed doors. VOA reporter William Yang noted the lack of transparency surrounding the case.
According to human rights advocates, the lack of transparency surrounding Huang and Wang’s situation is indicative of a growing pattern in China. Authorities are actively suppressing the dissemination of information pertaining to sensitive cases involving human rights.
According to Yaqiu Wang, the director of China research at Freedom House, trials involving sensitive human rights cases used to gain significant public interest. However, Chinese authorities are now attempting to make these trials more enigmatic.
She stated that the Chinese government also prolongs and divides the legal proceedings, leading to less media coverage and making it harder to support the detained activists.
Huang and Wang have been treated unfairly by the authorities. They were taken into custody, or as one of Huang’s friends described it, “kidnapped,” in September 2021 and have been held in pre-trial detention since then. During this time, Huang was not allowed to have the lawyer of her choice and was reportedly subjected to frequent torture, sleep deprivation, and malnutrition. China Change published a copy of their indictment, which was dated August 2022 but was only made public a year later. On the day of the trial, roads near the courthouse were blocked and U.S. diplomats were prevented from attending. Feminist activist Lu Pin stated, “From detention to trial, the authorities acted arbitrarily without any regulations.” More than 32 civil society organizations have called for the release of Huang and Wang. As one Chinese social media user wrote, “It has been two years, it is time!”
On the day before Huang and Wang’s trial, Duihua, a human rights organization, reported that Professor Rahile Dawut, an expert on Uyghur folkloric traditions, has been sentenced to life in prison for “splittism,” or threatening national security, according to a government source. She was detained in 2017, tried in 2018, and convicted of the crime. Although she appealed her sentence, it was rejected. Her daughter, Akida Polat, told RFA that this is extremely unfair and nonsensical, as her mother’s work, actions, and personal life had nothing to do with threatening national security. The Economist also pointed out the absurdity of Rahile Dawut’s life sentence.
Rahile Dawut, a 57-year-old anthropologist from the Uyghur ethnic group, used to be a well-respected figure in China. She was a member of the Communist Party and received funding from the state for her work at the University of Xinjiang. As a professor and founder of a research center focused on ethnic minorities, she was highly regarded. She was even recognized by the Ministry of Culture and had the opportunity to meet President Jiang Zemin in 2000. Her achievements were also highlighted on the cover of a state-sponsored magazine in Xinjiang, the Uyghur heartland. However, in December 2017, after informing a relative that she needed to travel to Beijing, Ms. Dawut (pictured) disappeared.
No official reason has been given for Ms Dawut’s situation. However, the Dui Hua Foundation, an organization advocating for political prisoners in China, reports that a government insider has revealed her fate. The foundation states that Ms Dawut was detained on charges of promoting separatism and posing a threat to national security. In 2018, she was secretly tried and found guilty by a court in Xinjiang, receiving a life sentence. She later appealed the decision, but was unsuccessful.
According to friends and past students, the accusations against Ms. Dawut are unreasonable. They portray her as a practical scholar who seldom discussed political issues. For many years, she adeptly maneuvered through the limitations placed on academic studies in China. Her acquaintances assert that Ms. Dawut is not a dissident, but rather another target of the government’s targeting of the Uyghur community. [Source]
Following the revelation of Rahile Dawut’s life imprisonment, the Uyghur community recently commemorated the ninth anniversary of Ilham Tohti’s incarceration. Tohti, a well-known Uyghur intellectual and economics professor, was convicted on September 23, 2014 for inciting separatism after a two-day trial that was riddled with legal irregularities. Since 2017, he has been held incommunicado without any contact with his family or legal representation. Despite his imprisonment, Tohti has received several prestigious awards, such as the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the 2019 Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, the Freedom Award from Freedom House, and the 2014 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.
Ronson Chan, the leader of the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association, was given a 5-day prison sentence on Monday for impeding a police officer while carrying out his reporting duties. The incident occurred last September when an undercover police officer stopped Chan and requested to see his ID, which Chan reportedly refused to show. In court, Chan expressed his worries about his privacy being violated, citing a previous incident where the police had publicly shown his ID on a live stream. An article by Hillary Leung at the Hong Kong Free Press covered the severe punishment and discrepancies in the police’s testimonies.
Chan’s lawyer, Charlotte Kong, appealed to the court to consider a non-custodial penalty. She also cited a number of past court cases involving the same offence, which she said were more serious in nature but were met with fines and community service order.
After deliberating, Judge Leung Ka-kie decided to impose a five-day jail sentence, stating that a fine or community service would not adequately reflect the seriousness of the crime. She deemed short-term imprisonment to be the most appropriate form of punishment.
The source stated that the four police officers who testified in court had conflicting testimonies. However, this did not affect their credibility as they arrived at the scene at different times and had varying interactions with Chan.
RFA reported on Wednesday that a man from Tsaruma in Ngaba’s Kyungchu county was arrested in February for owning a photo of the Dalai Lama. He was later given a two-year prison sentence. In May, two Tibetan monks were also sentenced for possessing photos of the Dalai Lama on their phones. One received a three-year sentence, while the other received three years and six months for separatism charges.
The lawyer representing feminist advocate Zhou Xiaoxuan (also known as Xianzi) announced on Sunday that Zhu Jun, a host for CCTV, has chosen to drop his defamation lawsuit against her without any agreement or discussion. In 2018, Xianzi went public with accusations of sexual harassment against Zhu after reporting to the police in 2014 that he had forcibly kissed her while she was interning at CCTV. Zhu retaliated with a defamation suit, and Xianzi filed a countersuit. Her case has come to represent the #MeToo movement in China and the challenges faced by sexual assault victims seeking justice, as she explained to Sylvie Zhuang of the South China Morning Post on Monday.
She stated that my case against Zhu highlighted the extensive amount of evidence that victims in sexual harassment cases in China must provide and the heavy burden of proof they must bear.
Zhou expressed concerns about the challenges she faced in her pursuit of justice, as well as the ongoing uncertainty surrounding her case. This has prompted speculation about the potential difficulties that other supposed victims may encounter within China’s legal system moving forward.
“Do victims have the right to speak out if there is no court decision on the issue?” [Source]