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China: jail sentence for prominent human rights lawyer 'an outrage'

Chang Weiping jailed for three-and-a-half years for ‘subversion of state power’ after talking publicly of his torture at hands of police

Lawyer’s ordeal began in 2020 after he attended a meeting of human rights activists

‘Chang remains at risk of torture’ - Sarah Brooks

Responding to a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence handed down to Chinese human rights lawyer Chang Weiping for “subversion of state power” earlier today at Feng County Detention Centre in Shaanxi province, Sarah Brooks, Head of Amnesty International’s China Team, said:

“It is an outrage that Chang Weiping faces jail simply for speaking out about the torture he says he faced at the hands of the police.

“He was convicted in a closed-door trial that even his wife was prevented from attending, and he has been denied regular access to his lawyer throughout his time in custody.

“Chang remains at risk of torture and other ill-treatment in jail and there are grave concerns for his physical and mental well-being due to the isolation and ill-treatment he has endured.

“The Chinese authorities’ appalling treatment of Chang Weiping has even extended to his family, who have reported facing intimidation and harassment to stop them speaking out about his plight.

“Chang Weiping is a dedicated advocate for human rights protections who has been jailed solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression. He must be released immediately.”

Timeline of lawyer’s persecution

Earlier today, Chang Weiping was sentenced to three years and six months in jail for “subversion of state power” at Feng County Detention Centre in Shaanxi province after he publicly detailed incidents of torture he says he experienced during detention in January 2020. Chang, a human rights lawyer from Baoji City, is known for his work defending the rights of people facing discrimination based on their health status, gender identity or sexual orientation. 

Chang was first detained for ten days in January 2020 after attending an informal, private meeting with other human rights activists in the city of Xiamen in December 2019. In January 2020, the authorities also revoked his law licence.

In October 2020, Chang posted a video clip on YouTube in which he shared details of how he’d been subjected to torture during his detention. He said police officers had tied him to a restraining device known as a “tiger chair” for 24 hours a day and that he he’d been interrogated 16 times over the ten-day period. He also talked about being subjected to heavy surveillance after his release in January 2020.

On 22 October 2020, six days after posting the video, he was again detained and initially put under “Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location”, a measure that under certain circumstances enables criminal investigators to hold people for up to six months outside the formal detention system in what can amount to a form of secret incommunicado detention.

On 16 April 2021, Chang’s family received a notice indicating he’d been charged with “subversion of state power”. At this point, after being held incommunicado for nearly a year, he was finally allowed to meet his lawyer. Throughout his detention, the authorities had arbitrarily rejected his lawyer’s and family’s requests to meet him. 

On 26 July 2022, Chang was convicted of “subversion of state power” in a closed-door trial at the Feng County People’s Court in Shaanxi, 

Meanwhile, Chang’s parents and other family members have faced ongoing surveillance and intimidation. They have reported being followed whenever they leave the house, that their phones have been taken away and that any visitors to their home are questioned by the police. Chang’s wife has also said the authorities have threatened that she might lose her job if she continued to speak out on Chang’s case.

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