Authorities in the northern Chinese province of Shaanxi have formally arrested rights attorney Chang Weiping on suspicion of “subversion of state power,” his wife said on Monday.
Chang is currently being held in Fengxian Detention Center in Shaanxi’s Baoji city. The charge against him appears to have been changed from “incitement to subvert state power,” which carries a maximum jail term of 15 years, to the more serious charge of “subversion of state power,” which has no upper limit on length of custodial sentence.
He was redetained in October 2020 after he spoke out about being tortured following an earlier detention in connection with a dinner gathering of human rights lawyers, dissidents, and rights activists in the southeastern port city of Xiamen in December 2019.
Chang Weiping’s wife Chen Zijuan said she had received a notification of formal arrest from the Baoji municipal police department,
Chen issued statement saying that her husband hadn’t committed any crimes at all, “let along subverting state power.”
She called his continued detention an abuse of police power and demanded Chang’s immediate release.
No legal basis
According to Chen, police had no legal basis to detain Chang, and are now holding him in a detention center in a mountainous area with scant transportation links.
“This is an outright abuse of power and a form of retaliation,” Chen said. “I am extremely angered by the recklessness of the local judicial agencies and demand that they immediately correct their mistake.”
Xie Yang, a fellow rights attorney from the central province of Hunan, said Chen’s statement highlights irregularities in the way Chang was arrested and in the processing of his case.
“These [political] cases are different from regular criminal cases, which often remain within the framework of criminal law,” Xie told RFA.
“But in cases of [alleged] subversion of state power, there are few legal safeguards,” he said. “The normal laws don’t apply, and they can do whatever they want.”
Meanwhile, the wife of jailed Chinese rights lawyer Yu Wensheng, who was held incommunicado for three years and sentenced to jail for “incitement to subvert state power,” said he had been beaten up by a group of people while serving his sentence inside Nanjing Prison.
Xu Yan, who had a video call with Yu last month, said the online “visit” was the first she had heard of the incident.
“When he first arrived in Nanjing Prison, he was set upon by a group of people who beat and kicked him,” Xu told RFA. “He was very confused at the time [about what had actually happened].”
“I have requested that the authorities at Nanjing Prison hold the leaders of the relevant departments accountable, and to investigate whether someone instructed them to attack him, and to hold them accountable too,” she said.
Family members have long suspected that Yu Wensheng was tortured and ill-treated while in custody, as he only has limited use of his right hand, and is unable to write, brush his teeth or harvest crops as part of prison labor.
He was recently sent to hospital for medical attention to his hand.
“He was examined by orthopedics and a neurosurgeon, and was later given medication to treat the trauma to his hand and the nerve damage,” Xu said.
“At first it was only on his right hand, but a more serious incident took place on March 15, and now his left handle has started shaking too.”
Xu said Nanjing Prison used to arrange family visits every two months, but face-to-face visits have been suspended due to COVID-19.
She called on the prison authorities to reinstate face-to-face visits, once a month, as provided for in Chinese law.
Earlier this year, Yu was named as a finalist for the Martin Ennals Award honoring human rights defenders.
The Martin Ennals Foundation called him “one of the best-known and most intrepid human rights activists” in China, acknowledging that Yu has been subjected to arbitrary detention, a secret trial, and the removal of his license to practice law.
Reported by Gao Feng for RFA’s Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
Copyright © 1998-2020, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036. https://www.rfa.org