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China rights lawyer held for ‘inciting state subversion’

  • ‘Trumped-up charges’, wife in US alleges, as Xie Yang, 49, is detained for ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’

  • Xie recently tried to visit a teacher who was hospitalised after voicing sympathy for views questioning Beijing’s narrative over the 1937 Nanking massacre

Agence France-Presse

19 Jan, 2022

Xie Yang (centre) has been detained by police in central China after speaking out in defence of a local teacher. Photo: AFP

A human rights lawyer has been detained in China on suspicion of “inciting state subversion”, according to an official notice obtained by his wife weeks after he spoke out for a hospitalised teacher.

Xie Yang – who has previously defended Christians and democracy activists – has not been heard from since he was detained more than a week ago in Changsha, in central Hunan province.

Beijing has stepped up its crackdown on civil society since Xi Jinping took power in 2012, tightening restrictions on freedom of speech and detaining hundreds of activists and lawyers.

The police notice, dated Monday and seen by Agence France-Presse, says 49-year-old Xie had been detained on suspicion of inciting subversion of state power and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” – a catch-all allegation frequently used against dissidents and activists.

“I am very angry that he has been detained on trumped-up charges,” Xie’s wife Chen Guiqiu said from the United States, where she lives with their two children. His home was also ransacked, according to Chen.

“Anything that could be opened was opened or torn open, even his pillows were ripped apart,” she said, adding that two computers and his safe were missing.

Xie’s detention comes weeks after he tried to visit a teacher, Li Tiantian, who friends said was forcibly committed to a psychiatric hospital after expressing sympathy for views questioning Beijing’s narrative over the 1937 Nanking massacre.

The historical tragedy is a hugely sensitive topic in China.

China marks 84th anniversary of the Nanking massacre with a memorial service

Li was believed to have been held after she publicly sympathised with a Shanghai professor who questioned the official death toll of 300,000 attributed to the six-week spree of killing, rape and destruction.

Xie was a vocal advocate for the 27-year-old pregnant teacher, who authorities have said was willingly admitted to the hospital.

He tweeted a video in December showing himself outside the local police headquarters holding a poster calling for her release.

The Changsha Public Security Bureau declined to comment, while the detention centre and local propaganda department did not answer phone calls.

“Xie Yang has participated in almost all the hot-button issues in China,” said rights activist Cheng Xiaofeng, who had attempted to visit the hospital with him.

“His actions probably make the authorities very uncomfortable.”

Xie was previously detained for almost two years during the “709 crackdown” targeting human rights activists and lawyers in 2015, when he said he suffered torture

Yang Maodong, better known as Guo Feixiong, was blocked from visiting his dying wife in the US. Photo: Handout

Another human rights lawyer, Yang Maodong, was arrested last week also on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”, according to a police notice shared with AFP. He had been detained in the southern megacity of Guangzhou since last month.

Yang has been imprisoned repeatedly as a result of his advocacy.

Yang’s wife died of cancer last week in the US, after he was blocked from leaving China to reunite with her.


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