The Washington Post
Date: January 31, 2019
By: Editorial Board
ON JULY 9, 2015, China launched its war on lawyers. Over the course of a few weeks, some 300 lawyers, legal assistants and other advocates for the rule of law were rounded up. One of the most prominent, Wang Quanzhang, disappeared into secret detention on Aug. 3, 2015; after being held incommunicado for nearly 3½ years, he was the last to go on trial. On Monday, he was sentenced to 4½ years in prison on charges of subversion, putting a punctuation mark on one of the principal means of repression used by President Xi Jinping to consolidate power.
Since taking office six years ago, Mr. Xi has employed corruption investigations to purge rivals in the Communist Party; stepped up censorship of social media; and conducted a massive campaign against Muslims in the Xinjiang region, hundreds of thousands of whom have been confined to concentration camps and forced to undergo “reeducation.” Meanwhile, he has sought to stifle dissent by targeting the lawyers who defend human rights activists and religious believers or bring cases against local authorities for corruption.
Most of the lawyers and activists detained in what became known (for its July 9 date) as the 709 campaign were held for a few weeks; a number were later stripped of their licenses or driven out of business. But at least four besides Mr. Wang have been sentenced to prison. In August 2016, lawyer Zhou Shifeng and activist Hu Shigenwere given terms of seven and 7½ years, respectively; in November 2017, lawyer Jiang Tianyong was sentenced to two years. The next month, human rights activist Wu Gan was handed an eight-year term. [FULL STORY]