Charged with subversion, torture details revealed
Ding Jiaxi was among dozens of lawyers and activists who attended an informal gathering held in Xiamen, a city on China’s southeast coast, in December 2019. Many present at this private gathering had been active in the New Citizens Movement, a loose network of activists who aimed to promote government transparency and expose corruption in the early 2010s. At the meeting, they discussed the situation of civil society and current affairs in China. Since 26 December 2019, police across the country have been summoning or detaining participants of the Xiamen gathering.
Ding Jiaxi was held incommunicado for more than a year after being taken away on 26 December 2020. In June 2020, Ding’s family received an arrest notice from police in Linyi City, Shandong, confirming that Ding had been formally arrested for “inciting subversion of state power”. In December, Ding’s family was told that his case had been granted an extension of the investigation period (延长侦查期) to 19 January 2021.
On 20 January, Ding’s lawyer was informed by the procuratorate office that the charge against Ding has been changed to “subversion on state power, which could carry a maximum life sentence if Ding is deemed to have be a “ringleader” of the alleged activities. No trial date has been set and Ding still has no access to his family members.
Ding Jiaxi is a Beijing-based former human rights lawyer and a core member of the New Citizens Movement. His activism has included advocating for rights of migrant workers’ children and demanding transparent governance. In 2014 Ding was sentenced to three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment for “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place”. In 2018, he was barred from boarding a flight to the United States, where his wife and daughter live. In 2019, authorities stopped him from travelling to Hong Kong on the grounds that he “may endanger national security and interest”.
In March 2020, United Nations human rights expert bodies expressed their grave concerns about the disappearance of Ding.
Since the massive crackdown on lawyers and activists in 2015, the Chinese authorities have been systematically using national security charges with extremely vague provisions, such as “subverting state power” and “inciting subversion of state power”, to prosecute lawyers, scholars, journalists, activists and NGO workers.