BEIJING — A Chinese human rights lawyer who has supported the families of other lawyers and activists detained in a sweeping crackdown since 2015 was declared guilty on Tuesday of inciting subversion by a court in southern China and sentenced to two years in prison.
The defendant, Jiang Tianyong, told the court in Changsha, capital of Hunan province, that he would not appeal. But his family, human rights groups and other supporters have condemned his trial in August as a carefully staged sham, and rights advocates called the verdict a vendetta after Jiang helped bring to light another lawyer’s allegations that he had been brutalised in custody.
The Hunan Intermediate People’s Court announced the sentencing of Jiang over Sina.com Weibo, a popular Chinese social media service, and the judge made clear that Jiang was being held up as a warning to other activist lawyers who challenge the strict control of President Xi Jinping, the Communist Party leader.
“Jiang Tianyong had for a long time come under the influence of anti-Chinese infiltration, and gradually formed the idea of overturning the country’s existing political system,” said the decision from the court, which, like others in China, answers to the Communist Party. Without offering details, the court described Jiang as an agent for foreign forces hostile to the party’s rule.
The most specific charge against Jiang was that he had engaged in subversion by helping publicise the claims of another detained lawyer, Xie Yang, who said he had been tortured in custody, according to documents his lawyers shared early this year. Xie later retracted his claims at a trial in May that his wife and other supporters said was a show hearing.
Jiang, 46, had taken up contentious legal causes for more than a decade, including on behalf of members of Falun Gong, a banned spiritual sect. His clients included Chen Guangcheng, the human rights activist who fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing before moving to the United States.
The government took away Jiang’s license to practice law in 2009, but he kept supporting dissidents and activists, even after July 2015, when the Chinese government initiated a wide clampdown. He was taken into custody last November, and at least part of his time in pretrial detention may be counted as part of his prison term. The court announcement did not specify a date of scheduled release.
Another activist detained and tried in the crackdown is still waiting for his verdict. Wu Gan, widely known by his internet handle “Super Vulgar Butcher,” stood trial on subversion charges in August. That hearing was not broadcast, and the court has yet to announce a decision.