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11 Jan 2016

Agence France-Presse

China charges rights lawyers held in secret for six months, say families

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China has formally charged at least five human rights lawyers and colleagues held in secret for six months after a sweeping crackdown on legal activism, family and associates said…

Zhou Shifeng, the founder of Beijing’s Fengrui law firm and [represented the victim of the contaminated milk powder to sue against the Sanlu Group in 2008], is accused of “state subversion”. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in jail…Four other people are also said to be accused of “incitement to state subversion”, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years…They are virtually certain to face trial in China’s Communist Party-controlled courts, which have a conviction rate of more than 99.9 percent of criminal cases and where forced confessions are often used as evidence.

However, relatives of Li Heping and Wang Yu, two well-known rights lawyers who have also been missing since July’s crackdown, have yet to receive any news on the fate of their loved-ones…China’s ruling Communist party does not tolerate organised dissent, and has tightened controls on civil society under the leadership of Xi Jinping.