Human rights lawyer Chang Weiping was found guilty of “subversion of State power” and sentenced to three years and six months in prison. The verdict came ten months after the initial trial in July 2022 and was read out at the Feng County Detention Centre in Baoji city, Shaanxi province in China on Thursday.
Chang Weiping is a human rights lawyer known for his public interest litigation in defence of the rights of people facing discrimination based on their health status, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation. He has provided legal counsel to human rights defenders and victims of defective vaccines, as well as women, LGBTIQ+ persons, and persons living with HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B who face discrimination in the workplace.
According to Chang Weiping’s spouse, since his secret trial in July 2022, the Feng County Detention Centre, where the human rights defender is being held, have repeatedly rejected his legal counsel’s requests to meet the human rights defender, on the pretext of COVID-19 prevention.
Following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions nationwide in December 2022, Chang Weiping’s lawyer made another request in January 2023, but the detention centre denied it again.
This time, their denial was on the pretext that an approval from a superior official was needed because the case in question is “special.” The lawyer’s request to meet the human rights defender in March 2023 was also denied.
In September 2022, UN human rights experts wrote to the Chinese government again to express “grave concern” about the ongoing detention of the human rights defender and his trial which took place behind closed doors. The UN experts further stated that their concerns are “aggravated by the apparent violations of due process guarantees in Mr. Chang’s case, which would strongly indicate the violation of his right to a fair trial.”
In its reply in November 2022, the Chinese government claimed that Chang Weiping “voluntarily signed a statement containing a guilty plea,” but the said statement was not published. The so-called guilty plea is widely believed to have been involuntary and the result of coercion.
Front Line Defenders condemns the verdict against Chang Weiping as it believes it is solely in retaliation against his peaceful and legitimate human rights work. We call on the relevant authorities in China to promptly quash the conviction and sentence against the human rights defender and immediately release him.