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China jails feminist labor activist Li Qiaochu for ‘subversion’

Fellow activists say Li was jailed for supporting her partner, the jailed fellow dissident Xu Zhiyong.

By Jing Wei for RFA Mandarin

February 6, 2024

Credits @FFHR.CZ 

A court in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong has handed down a three-year, eight-month jail term to feminist activist Li Qiaochu after finding her guilty of “incitement to subvert state power,” rights groups have reported.

The Linyi Municipal People’s Court announced the sentence on Monday, the Weiquanwang website reported, citing the China Human Rights Lawyers Group.

Li was detained in 2021 after posting to social media the details of torture allegations by her partner, the jailed rights activist Xu Zhiyong, and by fellow jailed rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi

Xu is currently serving a 14-year jail term for “subverting state power,” while Ding is serving a 12-year sentence.

According to the court judgment handed down following a closed-doors trial in December 2023, the case against Li was based on her relationship to jailed New Citizens’ Movement rights activist Xu Zhiyong, and was immediately criticized by rights groups as a case of “guilt by association.”

According to the court, Li was in a relationship with Xu and had been deeply influenced by his ideas. The court said she set up a blog and uploaded a number of his articles there in September 2019, which the prosecution said had “helped to spread and disseminate ideas that subvert state power” and were an attempt to “overthrow the socialist system.”

At her trial at the Linyi Economic and Technological Development Zone People’s Court on Dec. 19, 2023, Li’s defense lawyers argued that there was no subversive intent behind the blog.

Outraged activists

But rights activists have said Li’s detention came after she publicly shared details of her husband’s torture by state security police while in detention.

“Li has been ruthlessly targeted for expressing views the Chinese authorities would prefer to suppress – on the premise that her speech could somehow topple the government,” Amnesty International China director Sarah Brooks said in a statement on Monday. 

“It is shameful that the Chinese authorities have jailed Li for speaking out against torture and ill-treatment rather than properly investigating the allegations she made,” Brooks said, calling for Li’s immediate and unconditional release.

Ding Jiaxi’s wife, Luo Shengchun, said she was angry, and having trouble sleeping or eating after hearing the news of Li’s sentence.

“Even a day’s sentence would be criminal,” Luo said. “The only ‘evidence’ was that they were lovers.”

“She did a small favor for Xu because of that relationship – she shouldn’t have to take responsibility for his words, and which of Xu Zhiyong’s words subvert the power of the Chinese state?” she said.

“China’s laws aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, because nobody abides by them,” she said. “They use illegal proceedings to suppress law-abiding citizens.”

U.S.-based rights lawyer Wu Shaoping said the sentence was “outrageous,” and that Li had committed no crime at all.

“The civil rights advocated by Li Qiaochu are behaviors that are encouraged, supported and advocated by any good society,” Wu said. “In a normal society, nobody gets prosecuted for such things.”

He said the ruling Chinese Communist Party is obsessed with maintaining its grip on power, and will suppress any dissenting opinions to protect the regime.

“The likelihood of a fracture in this brittle Communist Party regime is only going to get higher and higher in future,” he said. “It could completely disintegrate and collapse overnight at any time.”

Dutch award

In December 2022, the Netherlands honored Li Qiaochu with the 2022 Embassy Tulip award in recognition of her dedication to women’s rights and labor rights.

Li has been held in Shandong’s Linyi city since her initial detention on Feb. 6, 2021, on suspicion of “subverting state power.”

Her lawyer raised concerns over her mental health after being permitted a rare visit with her in August 2021. Li, who was diagnosed with depression before her arrest, needs long-term medication.

The Dutch award came amid international calls for Li’s release, including from European Union officials attending the United Nations’ Human Rights Council in September 2022.

Li, now in her early 30s, is a long-term campaigner against gender-based violence and for labor rights.

In 2017, she volunteered to provide information and resources to affected migrant workers when Beijing authorities forcibly removed them from the city, and boosted the visibility of China’s #MeToo movement by compiling data on sexual harassment.

She also campaigned against a culture of long hours in the workplace.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.



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