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Prominent rights attorney Xie Yang arrested for subversion in China's Hunan

Xie is held on suspicion of 'subversion' after supporting an outspoken teacher and poking fun at China's leader.

By Gao Feng


Chinese human rights attorney Xie Yang (L), who was arrested for subversion in Hunan province on Feb. 17 on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power," poses with friend Cheng Xiaofeng in an undated photo.

Authorities in the central Chinese province of Hunan have formally arrested prominent rights lawyer Xie Yang for subversion, after he supported a primary teacher forced into psychiatric "treatment" for her outspoken comments on social media.

Hunan teacher Li Tiantian was held for several days in a psychiatric hospital after she spoke out over the expulsion of a Shanghai journalism lecturer who encouraged her students to verify official accounts of the Nanjing massacre.

Xie was detained more than a month ago, with sources suggesting his online support for Li to have been a factor, but also citing a video he posted containing a satirical reference to ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping.

According to a notice sent by the Changsha municipal police department to Xie's family, Xie was formally arrested on Feb. 17 on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power," and is currently being held at the Changsha No. 1 Detention Center.

Xie's friend Cheng Xiaofeng said Xie had posted a video of pigs being slaughtered to Twitter and Moments, with a caption referring to a "200-pound pig," an apparent reference to Xi's claim that he had carried 200 jin (120 kilos) of wheat for 10 miles along a mountain road without switching shoulders.

"Everyone laughed at that, because yes, he could probably lift 200 jin, but walking 10 miles along a mountain path without shifting shoulders would be impossible," Cheng told RFA.

"In mainland China, if you mention 200 jin, everyone knows you're talking about this," he said. "Xie Yang added this phrase to his video, which by itself would have been nothing. The key is the text that went with the video, which did have a meaning."

Cheng said it is unlikely that any of China's embattled human rights lawyers will be allowed to represent Xie.

"In cases like this, the lawyer is usually appointed by the government; we did try, but the police weren't having it," he said.

Cheng said Xie's fellow lawyers had tried to send him money, with a number visiting his family in Changsha to offer support from around China.

"Xie Yang has constantly worked for social justice over the years, kept working, kept speaking up ... so we should try to do something for him, now."

Xie, whose license to practice law was revoked by Chinese officials after he reported being tortured in detention, has also been an outspoken supporter of jailed citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, whose family say she is close to death following months of hunger strike.

Hunan rights activist Ouyang Jinghua said Xie has long been seen as a thorn in the side of the CCP, but that he had done nothing wrong.

"The whole charge of subversion of state power is a false proposition," Ouyang said. "How did he subvert it? Using what?"

"The CCP probably hate him because he is still a very influential lawyer in Hunan," he said.

Hunan authorities released Li Tiantian from a psychiatric hospital Dec. 27, 2021, following a public outcry over her detention, but restrictions on her freedom remain.

Li, who was pregnant at the time of her detention, thanked people for their concern after being discharged from the Yongshun Country Psychiatric Hospital, but has said she won't be giving any media interviews.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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