China court jails 'tortured' rights activist Xu Qin for four years

Xu's sentence for 'subversion' is linked to her work with jailed veteran democracy activist Qin Yongmin.
By Kitty Wang for RFA Mandarin
China court jails 'tortured' rights activist Xu Qin for four years Veteran Chinese rights activist Xu Qin is seen in an undated photo.

Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu have handed a four-year jail term to veteran rights activist Xu Qin, after repeatedly delaying her trial and sentencing despite concerns over her deteriorating health, and amid reports of torture from a prominent rights group.

The Yangzhou Intermediate People's Court sentenced Xu, a key figure in the Wuhan-based China Rights Observer group founded by jailed veteran dissident Qin Yongmin, to four years' imprisonment on March 29 for "incitement to subvert state power," a charge frequently used to target peaceful critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, the Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch rights website reported.

It quoted Xu as telling the sentencing hearing: "I'd like to thank everyone for their care and support, and also thank my husband for his help and support. Regardless of whether it’s futile or not, I must appeal. This is my right."

An award-winning activist in a number of high-profile human rights cases, including that of detained human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng, Xu was detained under "residential surveillance at a designated location" in 2021, a form of incommunicado detention rights groups say puts detainees at greater risk of torture and mistreatment.

Her family told RFA in earlier interviews that Xu is a stroke and heart attack survivor who suffers from high blood pressure, among other ailments.

But according to the Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch rights website, many of Xu's health problems were caused by her torture and mistreatment in detention.

"During her detention and interrogation, Xu Qin was brutally tortured to extract a confession, and was held in solitary confinement for a long period of time," the website said in a report about her sentencing published on Sunday.

"Xu already suffered from multiple health problems including stroke, heart attack and hypertension, and as a result [of the torture], she was left paralyzed and unable to stand," it said.

Since she was locked up in the detention center, Xu has started using a wheelchair, according to her lawyer.

Chinese human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng and his wife Xu Yan are seen in an undated photo. (xuyan709 via X)
Chinese human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng and his wife Xu Yan are seen in an undated photo. (xuyan709 via X)

Xu told the court on Friday that she would appeal the sentence, which came after more than two years in pretrial detention at the Yangmiao Detention Center in Yangzhou city, where she held intermittent hunger strikes in protest at a loss of communications privileges as well as a months-long ban on meetings with her lawyer, Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch said.

Repeated calls to Xu's lawyer rang unanswered during office hours on Monday.

Trial was delayed

Xu's trial was delayed several times following her initial detention in May 2021, with the authorities citing only "unavoidable circumstances."

But her family says it was delayed due to her refusal to provide the state security police with a "confession."

The trial was eventually held on Nov. 7, 2022, but the verdict and sentencing were also repeatedly delayed until now.

New York-based rights lawyer Chen Chuangchuang, who also heads the U.S. branch of the banned China Democracy Party, said Chen has always been an extremely tenacious activist.

"The trial was held a long time ago, but the verdict and sentencing were delayed multiple times, which is a deliberate form of torture used by the Chinese Communist Party," Chen told RFA on Monday.

Chen said that one of the purposes of the authorities' repeated delay in pronouncing the sentence was to get Xu Qin to plead guilty, and that she had been especially targeted due to her association with Qin Yongmin.

According to the Weiquanwang rights website, the charges against Xu listed her participation in Qin's China Rights Observer and its sister organization Rose China as evidence against her.

Qin was sentenced in July 2018 to 13 years' imprisonment for "incitement to subvert state power," the latest in a string of long sentences for his peaceful dissent and attempts to build the banned China Democracy Party.

A contemporary of exiled dissident Wei Jingsheng, Qin was sentenced to eight years in prison for "counterrevolutionary propaganda and subversion" in the wake of China's Democracy Wall movement in 1981.

He served a further two years' "re-education through labor" in 1993 after he penned a controversial document titled the "Peace Charter."

Qin then served a 12-year jail term for subversion after he helped found the China Democracy Party in 1998 in spite of a ban on opposition political parties.

Xu was honored with the Lin Zhao Freedom Award for her human rights advocacy in 2022, and the Oscar China Freedom Human Rights Award last month.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Roseanne Gerin.


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