Chinese court jails prominent government critic for 4½ years after secret trial


Xie Wenfei is sentenced on public order charges after a long incommunicado detention

Chinese court jails prominent government critic for 4½ years after secret trial

Hunan rights activist Xie Wenfei was sentenced following a secret trial on an unknown date. His family wasn’t allowed to attend the trial or the sentencing.

A Chinese court has handed down a four-and-a-half year jail term to Xie Wenfei, prominent rights activist who has long been a critic of the government and a vocal supporter of the Hong Kong democracy movement.

The Chenzhou Municipal People’s Court in central Hunan province gave the sentence to Xie after finding him guilty of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” a charge frequently used to target peaceful critics of the ruling Communist Party, according to his brother.

News of his fate comes amid concerns that Xie has been subjected to ill-treatment during his years in incommunicado detention, and after he was forced to fire lawyers hired by his family to defend him on three separate occasions.

The sentence was handed down following a secret trial on an unknown date, and the family wasn’t allowed to attend either the trial or the sentencing hearing.

Xie, also known as Xie Fengxia, has been incommunicado since being taken away from his home in Hunan’s Chenzhou city of April 29, 2020, and has been denied visits from family members or lawyers.

“Xie Wenfei … called me on WeChat from the Zixing Detention Center to tell me that he will be released on Oct. 30, 2024, after four-and-a-half years in prison,” his brother Xie Fengchun told Radio Free Asia.

Poem about pandemic

Associates said at the time that his detention came after he posted a poem he wrote about the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan.

Xie’s friend Yuan Xiaohua said that following his release from an earlier jail term for speaking out in support of the 2014 Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, he had continued to speak out on political matters, including posting a message marking the death anniversary of Mao-era dissident Lin Zhao.

“They probably fear him and hate him because he’s always expressing his opinions on current affairs and traveling all around the country, and then there’s his comments on the pandemic and his commemoration of Lin Zhao,” Yuan said.

Xie will be sent to serve out his remaining sentence at Hunan’s Chisan Prison, which has held a number of high-profile political prisoners including Taiwanese rights activist Lee Ming-cheh, Changsha Funeng NGO founder Cheng Yuan and rights activist Ou Biaofeng, Yuan said.

“Based on what has leaked out about Cheng Yuan and Ou Biaofeng from Chishan Prison, there has been physical punishment, torture and forced labor, which is really very worrying,” he said.

Changsha Funeng sought to prevent discrimination by using the courts to strengthen protections for individuals living with disabilities and with HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases.

A person close to Xie’s case who requested anonymity due to safety concerns said his relatively heavy sentence was likely due to his having an earlier conviction, but could also be a form of political retaliation by the authorities.

“After he got out of prison, local officials would offer him humanitarian assistance and visit him and his parents from time to time, bearing gifts,” the person said.

“But Xie Wenfei has a very no-nonsense personality, and was very rude to them, and refused to let them in the door and threw away the stuff they brought,” the person said.

Xie had earlier been detained in October 2014 after wearing a black T-shirt and holding a banner in support of the 79-day Hong Kong pro-democracy movement on the streets of Guangzhou.

He entered the courtroom for his 2016 sentencing hearing shouting, “Build a democratic China!” and “Down with the Communist Party!” and could still be heard yelling slogans as he was being led out of the courtroom after sentencing

He was jailed by the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court on Nov. 19, 2016, for “incitement to subvert state power.”

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.

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