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Chang Weiping. Credit: Facebook/Free Chang Weiping


Charges against human rights lawyer changed to subversion

29 Mar 2021

The charges against human rights lawyer Chang Weiping have been changed from ‘inciting subversion’ to ‘subversion’, it emerged last week. Both charges are frequently used to target human rights defenders in China.

Chang Weiping has been in detention since 22 October 2020. Prior to his detention, he represented clients in cases related to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), forced demolition and discrimination (HIV, gender and LGBT issues). As a result of torture during a previous period of arbitrary detention, Chang lost the use of two of his fingers, which he has not regained in the ten months since.

During his detention, Chang’s wife Chen Zijuan has repeatedly attempted to visit him and find out information about his case. On 5 February, Chen released a statement with details of the case and its impact on their family. In the statement she describes the torture Chang was subjected to in a previous period of detention in January 2020, under ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL)’, including being tied up and forced to sit in a ‘tiger chair’, causing intense pain and swelling in his legs, as well as sleep deprivation and denial of adequate food.

The authorities recent move to change the charge against Chang to ‘subversion’ is particularly concerning. Charges of ‘inciting subversion’ could carry a sentence of approximately five years, depending on the act and level of involvement, while the charge of ‘subversion’ can carry even heavier punishments up to a life sentence.

Since the beginning of a nationwide crackdown on human rights lawyers in July 2015, numerous activists and lawyers have been charged with subversion-related charges in retaliation for their work on “sensitive” cases, including those involving FoRB. For example, in December 2019 Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Church was sentenced to nine years in prison following his conviction on charges of ‘inciting to subvert state power’ and ‘illegal business operations.’

CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “CSW resolutely condemns the charges against lawyer Chang Weiping. This is yet another example of the Chinese Communist Party’s arbitrary suppression of a lawyer who has peacefully defended the fundamental human rights of Chinese citizens. Chang should be applauded for his tireless efforts to oppose discrimination; instead, he has been arbitrarily detained and his family are subject to harassment, intimidation and threats. We call on the international community to raise this case with the Chinese authorities at every opportunity, and to call for Chang’s immediate and unconditional release.”



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