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The Epoch Times
By Zheng Yan
September 29, 2016 AT 10:37 am
Last Updated: September 29, 2016 10:37 am

■ For years, Beijing-based human rights lawyer Tang Jitian defended casualties of the Chinese Communist Party’s repression—victims of forced land acquisition and building demolition, practitioners of Falun Gong, and other Chinese petitioners.

In time, the Party came for Tang, a native of Dunhua in the northeastern province of Jilin.

His law license was rescinded without explanation in April 2010. The following month, he learned that he couldn’t travel overseas.

One evening in February 2011, police barged into Tang’s home, bundled him away, and beat him. He had earlier met with other lawyers and activists to devise ways to help Chen Guangcheng, a blind lawyer then under house arrest. Tang was released from custody in March, but was confined to his home.

Chinese human rights lawyer Tang Jitian in Beijing on April
29, 2010. (Olli Geibel/AFP/Getty Images)
Between 2011 and 2014, Tang Jitian was arrested and detained several more times while defending China’s disenfranchised and prisoners of conscience.

Last year, an account of abuse that Tang faced in March 2014 was made an Amnesty International report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture: Security forces in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang arrested Tang and three other human rights lawyers for investigating an illegal detention center. In custody, Tang was “strapped to an iron chair, slapped in the face, kicked in the legs, and hit so hard over the head with a plastic bottle filled with water” that he lost consciousness.

Despite being repeatedly persecuted, Tang, 46, persists in “weiquan” work, or the defending of people’s rights by attempting to have China’s authorities follow their own laws.

Epoch Times spoke to Tang Jitian this Spring; below is an abridged translation of the interview, edited for brevity and clarity.

Epoch Times (ET): In college, you read politics with a focus on Marxism-Leninism. Later, you taught Marxism-Leninism for five years. What made you break away from the current political system?

Tang Jitian: Even though much of what I learned is erroneous, the learning process helped shape the way I think. I’m more inclined to get to the essence of issues.

I was taught that the law is a tool for the ruling class. After studying jurisprudence and the constitution, however, I abandoned that view. I believe that the law fundamentally exists to protect everyone’s rights, and not just the rights of a wealthy few. Otherwise, that’s no rule of law, but an abuse of the law to subdue the people.

In actuality, the Chinese regime implemented the law to protect the interests of the privileged class, and stifle the regular people to prevent them from resisting. This legal system keeps the letter, but not the spirit, of the law.

During my interactions with Chinese petitioners, I found that many have strong faith in the law and the Chinese authorities. But despite having exhausted all options—some petitioners even tried to intercept Chinese officials in their cars—they realize that the chances of their problems being resolved are very slim. Thus, petitioners feel very miserable and helpless.

When working with the communist regime’s laws, I base my arguments on their legal clauses, but never put faith in them to avoid disappointment. I can only be of help to my clients by stepping outside the legal framework.

Of course, I follow the law and legal procedures for indictments and filing legal complaints, and I interact with staff that handle legal cases. But I realized that it doesn’t matter how rational my legal arguments are. The forces of malice and the inertia in the political system still induce officials to issue rulings or do things that violate legal values.

I used to be very concerned with legal procedure, but now I reckon that we shouldn’t go along with it. Legal procedure is important, but we need to influence the process.

Take the abolition of the labor camp system. Has there been any improvement in the system? No. In fact, the situation has deteriorated in the last two or three years. If we keep working within the legal framework, and gain a little technical correction here and there, the forces committing evil feel no pressure.

ET: You worked at a provincial protectorate for seven years, and handled over a hundred important public complaints. Seeing as you were an outstanding public prosecutor, what made you decide to leave that system?

Tang: Right, I worked very diligently back then, and tried to score well in various examinations. I felt that my occupation was sacred, and gave my utmost to avoid disgracing the profession. Because I had been poisoned by the Chinese regime, I felt a sense of achievement in contributing to the regime’s oppression—bringing people to court, handing out the death sentence, and authorizing executions.

I used to be a bookworm. I’d rather go to the library, or discuss scholarship and current affairs, and naturally spent a lot less time chatting with ordinary people. After working for some time, however, I discovered a huge discrepancy in the legal treatment of those who call on officials at the procuratorate and those who don’t, as well as those from good backgrounds and those who aren’t. My scholarly inclinations gradually felt out of sync with my worldly experiences.

Over time, I incurred the displeasure of my superiors when I handled cases in accordance with the law instead of taking their proposals into consideration. My superiors were also unhappy that I was giving truthful inspection appraisals instead of exaggerating. An old colleague once told me: Your being conscious of the commoners and sympathizing with them is very disadvantageous in this system.

The colleague turned out to be right, and I quit my job.

While in the system, I saw some things that shook me greatly. Once, I had to supervise and verify an execution order from a court in Yanbian, northeastern China. The prisoner was arrested during a fierce crackdown on crime in 1983, and was found guilty of a fair number of crimes, including robbery and rape. As everyone was dispersing after the prisoner was shot in the head, I suddenly noticed that the prisoner was still crawling about. I informed the chief bailiff, and the forensic investigator inserted a glass rod into the prisoner’s head, gave it a stir … and the prisoner was dead.

In another execution, the family of a condemned man and woman refused to collect their corpses, most likely out of shame and pressure. The corpses were loaded onto a truck belonging to a medical school, and were driven away. Seated in a police vehicle behind the truck, I saw that the bodies had been unceremoniously dumped into the truck like dead dogs… People haven’t been treated with a shred of dignity.

These few years, I’ve experienced a range of torture—sleep deprivation, being made to stand, kneel, or sit as punishment, being handcuffed, being beaten while tied up and suspended, and being placed under very bright light. I’ve also been threatened with being fed to dogs, being buried alive, being run down by a car, and being forced to commit suicide.

When I was in the system, I was very careless about dealing with the torture of suspects. Systemic inertia let me to believe that the criminal suspects I had encountered were lying to avoid being punished. I’ve seen cases where criminal suspects get smashed in the head and neck with the thick paper transcript or a heavy rolled up dossier… all of it.

What I’m doing now isn’t only for my clients. I’m also redeeming myself, and assuaging my conscience. I guess that’s what everyone is doing to some extent. It’s not purely a matter of settling accounts with the Party, but us making amends for having been a part of and upholding the system.

Practitioners of Falun Gong told me that the Chinese Communist Party is an evil cult. Then, I thought that the Party was definitely bad, but the label wasn’t warranted. Now I feel that the label is the clinching point, since it gets to the root of the matter. Being long poisoned by the Party’s brainwashing, we’ve not really rid ourselves of its discourse. Our brains, stuffed with Party discourse, need some cleansing.

ET: Do you have any suggestions for lawyers handling Falun Gong cases?

Tang: When lawyers are involved, the regime will find it difficult to cover up its illegal activities. Now, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to pleading not guilty for Falun Gong practitioners at bogus court sessions. The defense should begin right from the start of the case, and continue at each round of the legal proceedings.

For instance, the arrest of practitioners have in some cases been approved before a mandatory two-month inquiry has been conducted. Public security officers should dismiss the case at the inquiry stage. And the procuratorate is obligated to ensure that public security officers call off the arrest because practitioners are not guilty and no case should be filed.

Right now we have to educate those in the judiciary and public security to think in legal terms and not mechanically follow orders: What do their actions mean now, and what are the future implications of their actions?

Public security and judicial staff must know that not a single one of their leaders are willing to sign off on the illegal activities they are verbally instructed to execute. Take documents from the 610 Office for example. Initially, the 610 Office issued documents for its orders, but later the organization only gave verbal instructions out of fear that they would be exposed. If written instructions are issued, they are gathered back immediately after perusal and destroyed. After all, these instructions are all illegal.

We need to dismantle all aspects of this persecution, and fundamentally repudiate it. We need to expose all persecution.

Apart from exposing the persecution and its perpetrators, lawyers can also pressure the authorities by forcing them to disclose their public expenditure and other details. For instance, if the Domestic Security Bureau in Beijing’s Shunyi district makes an arrest, I can get the Shunyi district authorities to present legal justification for setting up a Domestic Security unit and define its roles, and request that the Shunyi district’s financial authorities divulge the funding source of the security unit. If the local financial authorities refuse to make public the above information, we can bring a lawsuit against them.

We can also demand that the Shunyi authorities make public the legal basis for setting up its 610 Office, as well as the local 610 Office’s legal functions and funding. If the Shunyi authorities don’t go public with this information, we have the right to sue them. Illegal organizations like the 610 Office should be dragged out into the open from their dark corners; let’s bring them out into the open for everyone to see!

What we’re doing now is breaking open the black box that is the 610 Office. It would be fantastic if the black box is destroyed, but it’s a step-by-step process. In every Falun Gong case we have to chisel a hole in the black box to allow light to shine in. Only then will the 610 Office lose its arrogance and cut back on its frenzied behavior.

ET: Many Chinese lawyers have said: “We only talk about the law and not politics.” Because Falun Gong is known as a political issue, these lawyers shy away from representing practitioners. What are your thoughts about this?

Tang: As lawyers, we’re most concerned about people’s rights. We might have different views on specific issues, but this shouldn’t affect our human rights demands or securing these rights for people.

So the view that lawyers should only concern themselves with the law and not politics is practically meaningless. Modern society understands politics as a form of public governance, and hence politics touches everyone. Even if you don’t talk about politics, you can’t step away from it.

Over time, however, modern society came to understand the neutral term “politics” as something negative. Those who talk “politics” are thought to be nasty characters with poor morals. But in fact, all of us have political rights that we need to strive for and safeguard.

So those lawyers in upscale office towers have to serve those in society who most need the protection of the law. If lawyers can’t serve these people, then the legal profession exists in name only. That’s because the legal profession was originally created to provide checks and balances to the government’s ever-expanding power, as well as safeguard the rights of the individual. I would say that lawyers who choose to ignore or remain apathetic to the government’s abuse of individuals aren’t genuine lawyers.

Someone once said that between a rock and an egg, we are fundamentally obliged to take the side of the egg. There are an inexhaustible number of ways for a rock to harm an egg, but the chances of an egg threatening a rock are very slim.

ET: Does your family understand the challenges you’ve faced all these years as a human rights lawyer?

Tang: I read the article Gao Zhisheng wrote to his mother, and felt incredibly moved. I’m also from a mountain region. I call my mother frequently so she won’t worry. She doesn’t say much, but when we both feel more at ease after hearing each other’s voice.

These days my mother isn’t too bothered when I don’t go home to celebrate the lunar new year—train tickets are hard to come by, or there might be special official reasons. But when I first left public office and didn’t spend one new year at home, my mother became concerned. Whenever the old folks in the village mentioned me, she would start crying.

On another occasion, my mother was so furious that I wasn’t back that she developed an intense toothache. I felt really terrible after learning about this. In all, my mother is vaguely aware of what I do, and tells me to walk an upright and righteous path.

In 2011, I was detained for 20 days. Because my weight had dropped from 154 pounds to 115 pounds upon release, my child remarked to my ex-wife that I must’ve emerged from a cremation furnace. I ought to put on some weight before visiting my parents, I thought then.

My mother worries all the time, and her health isn’t good. Over the years she has suffered much over my father’s family issues and my being arrested in recent years. If I had paid her a visit looking gaunt, she wouldn’t be able to take it.

My father experienced many political movements and understands the Party’s principles. When the Party is pushed to the brink, he said, it will become frantic and act without restraint. He told me to take care of myself and try to avoid being detained so that they wouldn’t have to worry for me.

I’ve truly fallen short in caring for my parents, my younger brother, my younger sister, my child, and my wife. But while the authorities have harmed me and my family by detaining and abusing me, I realized that I’ve built up tolerance for certain things. My family has also come to accept what I do, even though they remained concerned for my safety.

Society needs me. Sure, if there’s a more capable person, I can take a break. But I’d only rest voluntarily, and not because I’m being forced to rest. I’ve found the value and meaning of life through doing human rights work.

ET: What is the most important thing on your agenda now?

Tang: Government censorship is too strict, and far too many people have difficulty knowing the truth. So spreading the truth is critically important.

We need to spread technology that allows people to circumvent the Great Firewall of China. Once past the firewall, people can sign up for Twitter and Facebook, and start communicating with others. People may be brainwashed for decades, but I dare say that after spending 10 days, a month, or even a year learning about what’s going on in the outside world, people will come to realize that they don’t really understand anything at all.

We also have to start preparing material now for a time when fair trial is possible. Of course we still have to get results in the interim because people need to be encouraged bit by bit to build up confidence.

But our efforts don’t simply lie in getting those pseudo courts to stop convicting our clients, or reduce the number of convictions. Every time these judges or their backroom manipulators convict a Falun Gong practitioner, or a political prisoner, or a civil rights activist, and write detailed verdicts, they are in fact preparing documentation for their future conviction.

In the meantime, we have to prepare the ground for an environment where fair trial is possible.

Translated by Frank Fang, edited by Larry Ong.

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Christian Daily
By Lorraine Caballero
28 September, 2016 11:19 am

■ Christians in China are set to face harsher religious restrictions to be imposed by the government in early October, activists have warned.

The State Council of China has released the Revised Draft of Regulations on Religious Affairs outlining the new religious restrictions that aim to suppress religious activities not approved by the government. This goal can be achieved by dispersing Christian house churches, undermining Vatican influence on local Catholics, and suppressing Tibetan and Xinjiang separatists, China Aid details.

The said draft was released to the public to gather opinion until Oct. 7, which will set the beginning of its implementation. Some of the 74 articles listed in the draft talk about prohibitions on preaching, building religious institutions, online religious services, and organizing religious activities in the country and abroad.

Catholics attend a Christmas eve mass at a church near the
city of Taiyuan in Shanxi province in 2012.
(Reuters/Jason Lee)
In response to the said draft, U.S.-based pastor Gao Baosheng published an article titled "The Alarming Changes in the Revised Draft of Regulations on Religious Freedom." In his piece, Pastor Gao highlighted the Chinese government's efforts to tighten its hold on Christianity, Buddhism, Catholicism, and Islam. He also noted that the revisions were all made to suppress Christian churches and underground religions.

Pastor Gao also warned that the condition of religious liberty in China will become worse. Predicting that the draft will bring about "a religious winter so harsh," he urged believers to seek guidance from God.

Earlier this month, China Aid reported about two organizers of a Christian camp who were detained for 10 and 15 days respectively on Aug. 4 for allegedly indoctrinating minors with "superstitious beliefs." Zhou Yanhua and Gao Ming of the Yining County Church interrupted their preparations for their departure for a summer camp and took all the children with them to the police station to have them registered.

Chinese law prohibits anyone from sharing religious teaching to minors because authorities believe matters of faith could brainwash children. Parents and church leaders could also be punished for letting their children participate in any Christian activity.

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China Aid
Reported in Chinese by Qiao Nong. Translated by Carolyn Song. Edited in English by Ava Collins.

(Hegang, Heilongjiang—Sept. 28, 2016) Authorities continue to raid unregistered churches in China’s northeastern Heilongjiang province and coastal Anhui province, detaining church members.

On the morning of Aug. 22, officers from the religious affairs and public security bureaus raided Living Water and Blessed Lamb Church in Hegang, Helongjiang, dispersing a meeting and detaining several of those in attendance.
Xu Xiangmei's detention notice was issued
by the Gongnong District Public Security
Bureau. Translation available upon request.
One of the church members, Xu Xiangmei, was accused of “preventing police officers from carrying out public services” and detained for 10 days. According to witnesses, officers forcibly pushed Xu to the patrol car, slapped her, grabbed her by the neck, and inflicted various other violent actions against her.

“Officers from the religious affairs bureau, public security bureau and civil affairs bureau broke into the church and rushed to the second floor,” an anonymous member of the church said, recounting the event. “We blocked them off and prevented them from going further upward. A young man from the public security bureau forced his way in while we were praying and singing hymns. … They threw a sister [Xu Xiangmei] to the ground and then pushed her into a patrol car and took her away. They grabbed another sister, Elder Fang, [though she was] released that night. Xu Xiangmei, on the other hand, was detained for 10 days.”

Xu herself told China Aid’s reporter that though the church usually has between 20 and 60 people on a normal Sunday, the number at this meeting was closer to 200 on account of a guest preacher visiting from Hong Kong.

After her release, Xu sued the Gongnong District Public Security Bureau on Sept. 6, claiming her detention was unlawful and demanding the court revoke her administrative punishment. According to Xu, the officer who detained her did not show any credentials or give his name. Xu’s family were not given notice regarding her detention or the location where she was held within the 24 hours mandated by Chinese law.

Police conducted another raid against a house church in Ma’anshan City, Anhui, dispersing attendees and confiscating more than 100 chairs and a lectern which had recently been purchased. Officials from both the religious affairs bureau and public security bureau threatened to return unless the church, which hosts more than 1,000 members, joins the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement.

China Aid reports on instances of persecution, such as the raids against Living Water and Blessed Lamb Church and the Anhui house church, as well as the unlawful detention of Xu Xiangmei, to expose religious freedom and human rights abuses in China.

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Christian Today
By Ruth Gledhill 
28 September 2016

■ Another church in China has been issued with a legal notice to quit Christian activities in the latest of a spate of actions against house churches.

A church in China
The house church in Sichuan province has been ordered to stop meeting under rules that govern religious gatherings. The church has been subjected to a clamp down because its pastors are not government-appointed and it is not an officially-licensed church.

Similar action has been taken recently against other house churches in Guangdong, Zhejiang, Anhui and Henan provinces.

Zhang Mingxuan, a pastor and president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, told China Aid that there was a large operation against house churches taking place throughout China. He described it as "harrassment" and said it "directly contradicts China's own laws and its supposed commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights".

Chinese cease and desist notice
China Aid
The latest "Notice of Order to Reform", issued to Pastor Zhang Daichun, stated he was guilty of gathering Christians in the 40th building of Jiuzhaigou Garden in Yongle County "to perform Christian activities (sing hymns, pray, chant) since 2010".

Pastor Zhang was given 15 days to stop letting Christians in to worship, and to stop the hymn singing, praying and chanting.

Invited preachers were also banned in the notice, both from China and abroard.

"If you fail to make the corrections by the deadline, this department will impose administrative penalties according to the law," the notice says.

China is ranked at 33 on the Open Doors persecution watch list. Open Doors writes: "Christians continue to face restrictions from the authorities. Church meetings are disrupted or stopped, and Christian lawyers defending churches from having their crosses forcibly removed have been imprisoned.

"Foreign influence in the fast-increasing Christian minority is seen as a threat to the Chinese government's nationalistic control."

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The Washington Post
By Editorial Board
September 27 at 7:02 pm

■ AS CHINA’S economy mushroomed in recent decades, outsiders often pointed out the need to establish rule of law, giving investors and business executives, both at home and abroad, a reliable set of rules upon which to make decisions. In a democratic system, rule of law also provides a guarantee that no one, not even the highest officials, are above the law. China does have a system of courts and judges, but it was shown last week, once again, that it does not have rule of law, and in some ways rule of law is slipping further away under President Xi Jinping.

The most recent example was the sentencing Sept. 22 of a human rights lawyer, Xia Lin, on trumped-up charges. Human rights lawyers are at the tip of the spear in the battle over rule of law — they often defend people who are wronged or hurt by the state. Now, they are being systematically persecuted and silenced. Mr. Xia, a 46-year-old lawyer whose clients haveincluded dissident artist Ai Weiwei and free-speech champion Pu Zhiqiang, was convicted of fraud and given 12 years in prison, the harshest sentence to date in the crackdown on lawyers. His supportersdenounced the conviction and sentence as a blatant political effort to punish him for his professional activities and send a message to others who dare champion human rights and challenge the Communist Party’s monopoly on power.

Mr. Xia was detained Nov. 8, 2014, after working to defend an advocate of democracy in Hong Kong. He was charged with fraud more than a year later, accused of swindling people out of money and using it to pay gambling debts, which he vigorously denied. According to his lawyers, the supposed victims of the “fraud” never complained, nor was evidence of gambling debts presented in court. This is how it works in China’s authoritarian system — justice is dictated from above.

Policemen stand around Lin Ru, the wife of civil rights lawyer
Xia Lin, near the Beijing Number 2 People's Intermediate
Court after her husband was sentenced to 12 years in prison
on fraud charges in Beijing on Sept. 22.
(Damir Sagolj/Reuters)
After a surge of arrests of activists and lawyers last summer, more than a dozen remain behind bars. As The Post’s Simon Denyer reported, a first batch of four went on trial last month and were given sentences ranging from 7½ years to a suspended three-year prison term, all shown on television making humiliating public confessions, renouncing their own actions and warning against “hostile foreign forces” and subversive ideas, such as “human rights” and “democracy.” Another prominent lawyer, Wang Yu, had been held for more than a year on subversion charges and remains under tight surveillance similar to house arrest, according to Radio Free Asia.

Since Mao’s time, China has treated dissent with brute force and dissenters without mercy. Those who believed that economic modernization might bring China closer to rule of law had reason to hope — but those expectations look increasingly misplaced under Mr. Xi. He is charting an intolerant and illiberal course, forcing the news media to become ever more obedient to the party, straitjacketing independent nongovernmental organizations and preferring rule by the few over rule of law.

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Human Rights Watch
By Maya Wang
September 27, 2016 8:00 pm EDT 

■ Campaign to Silence Human Rights Lawyers

After being expelled from court while trying to defend a client who said he had been tortured, Chinese lawyer Li Jinxing wrote: “Is this what being a lawyer is like…? We have worked hard on behalf of the rank and file; and yet this is the misery we end up with!”

Li Jinxing poses at the entrance of the Bureau of Prison
Administration, Zhengzhou, Henan province
© Li's Weibo
Li is best known for defending individuals facing execution or lengthy sentences for crimes in which they maintain their innocence. Many of his clients said they confessed after being tortured. In some of these cases, Li successfully got courts to overturn the verdicts and saved people’s lives. He and other “die hard” lawyers, as they are now known, advocate for their clients’ rights, publicize those cases, criticize the authorities for their handling of cases, and push for legal reform. Inspired by the United States-based Innocence Project, which works to free wrongfully convicted people from prison, in 2013 Li and others established “Aid the Innocents,” which is dedicated to defending cases in which detainees have suffered the gravest injustices. As the Chinese government feels the pressure of public frustrations with the politicized legal system, it has proved willing to overturn some high-profile wrongful convictions. Li’s project should be viewed as a promising endeavor.

In January 2015, President Xi Jinping vowed to shape the legal system into a “knife held firmly in the [hands of] the Party.” And in a legal system designed to serve Communist Party imperatives rather than the rule of law, Li is not an ally, but an enemy: On September 26, 2016, he revealed that judicial authorities in eastern Shandong province said theyplanned to revoke his license to practice law, after a Guangdong court complained to them about Li’s “disruptions to the order of the court.” Li apparently irked court officials by complaining about procedural violations when he represented Guo Feixiong, a well-known activist.

Over the past year Chinese authorities have increasingly sought to silence human rights lawyers. Courts have handed down harsh sentences against rights lawyers Xia Lin, Zhou Shifeng, and Tang Jingling, while continuing to detain five lawyers who were apprehended in a nationwide sweep in July 2015. The government recently issued a new set of administrative measures that aim to exert greater control over lawyers and law firms.

Any hope that the campaign against Chinese lawyers would soon ease will be dashed should authorities cut short the legal career of Li Jinxing.

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Radio Free Asia

■ Police in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have tried to silence an exiled leader of the rebel village of Wukan by making his detained father persuade him by telephone to stop his activism.

Zhuang Liehong, who lives in New York after fleeing China for the United States in 2014, told RFA's Cantonese Service on Tuesday that he got a phone call from Lufeng Police Department in Guangdong. After the police officer confirmed if it was Zhuang, they handed the phone to his father, Zhuang Songkun.

"My father asked me if I planned any more actions over here and I then asked about his situation. He said he was being treated well by police and asked me not to stir things up overseas and be careful not to be used by other people," Zhuang told RFA.

"I told my father don't fuss too much. If they want to arrest you, just let them do it. I know the phone line has been under surveillance. My intention is to tell them if they arrest my father, there will be a price to pay," Zhuang added.

Zhuang Liehong stages a protest at the U.N. Headquarters in
New York to call attention to the crackdown on his home
village of Wukan, Sept. 2016.
Photo courtesy of Zhuang Liehong
The elder Zhuang has been in police custody since Sept. 13, when he and three other people who sheltered journalists covering protests that erupted in late summer were issued with notifications of criminal detention.

While Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was attending the United Nations General Assembly last week, Zhuang Liehong staged protests at U.N. headquarters in New York in an effort to call attention to the crackdown, which followed more than 80 days of peaceful protests in his hometown, Wukan.

Wukan, a fishing village of just 13,000, grabbed world headlines in 2011 following pitched battles between police and local residents that came after a long-running land dispute and the death of an activist in detention.

Dozens of people were injured by rubber bullets and police batons during street battles in mid-September, while at least 13 were detained in mass police raids.

The latest protests and crackdown in Wukan came after a court in Guangdong's Foshan city sentenced Lin Zuluan, 72, to more than three years' imprisonment on "bribery" charges. He was made the new head of the village in 2012 as former protest leaders were elected to positions on the village committee following weeks of protests.

The elections that followed the sacking of ruling Chinese Communist Party village secretary Xue Chang for corruption were widely reported in China's tightly controlled media as a model of grassroots democracy.

Wukan residents rejected Lin's sentence, staging further protests over charges they said were trumped up.

Asked by RFA if the pressure on his father would silence him, Zhuang Liehong said: "Of course not. Am I that stupid? After all they did to the villagers of Wukan, did they silence me? I will take more actions based on my assessment of the situation in Wukan.”

Reported by Koh Fung for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated by Wong Lok-to. Written in English by Paul Eckert.

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China Aid
Reported in Chinese by Qiao Nong. Translated by Carolyn Song. Written in English by Brynne Lawrence.

(Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan—Sept. 27, 2016) Accused of gathering a congregation for religious services, a house church in China’s southwestern Sichuan province received orders on Sept. 2 to immediately stop meeting at their building and adhere to a list of restrictions.

Issued to Zhang Daichun, a member of the church, a document entitled “Notice of Order to Reform” declared that the church violated Article 53 of the Sichuan Province Regulations on Religious Affairs and Article 54 of the Regulations on Religious Affairs in Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture by gathering for religious activities. Consequentially, the bureau threatened to impose administrative penalties if the church failed to stop the activities it forbids, including holding services, allowing clerics not officially appointed by the government to preach and hosting foreign pastors at their current location.

Zhang Mingxuan, a pastor and president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, told China Aid that the persecution of this house church is symptomatic of a larger operation spreading throughout the country. Recently, house churches in Guangdong, Zhejiang, Anhui and Henan province faced harassment from the government due to their religious beliefs, harassment which directly contradicts China’s own laws and its supposed commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

A translation of the notice can be read below.

China Aid exposes religious freedom abuses in order to safeguard the rights of Christians, such as the members of persecuted house churches.

The Notice of Order to Reform

Jiuzhaigou Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau

Notice of Order to Reform

Jiuzhaigou Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau order to reform [2016] No.1

Zhang Daichun:

According to investigations, you have gathered large numbers of Christians at No. 1-2 of the 40th building of Jiuzhaigou Garden, Yongle County, Jiuzhaigou Town to perform Christian activities (sing hymns, pray, chant) since 2010, violating the stipulations of the second clause of Article 53 of the Sichuan Province Regulations on Religious Affairs and the first clause of Article 54 of the Regulations on Religious Affairs in Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture. You are now ordered to carry out the following corrections within 15 days of receiving this notice:
  1. Stop admitting Christians into No. 1-2 of the 40th building of Jiuzhaigou Garden to perform religious activities, such as singing hymns, praying and chanting.
  2. Stop allowing non-cleric personnel into No. 1-2 of the 40th building of Jiuzhaigou Garden to preach and Christian activities.
  3. Stop admitting clerics who come from abroad into No. 1-2 of the 40th building of Jiuzhaigou Garden to preach and conduct Christian activities.
If you fail to make the corrections by the deadline, this department will impose administrative penalties according to the law.

You are hereby notified.

Jiuzhaigou Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau (official seal)

Sept. 2, 2016

Signature of person involved: __________                              Date: _____Year_____ Month____Day

Signatures of law enforcement officers  Ma Yide  Zhang Min   Date: 2016/09/2

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Radio Free Asia

■ Around 20 lawyers, academics and religious leaders have penned a letter to China's parliament in protest over proposed rules that would intensify a government crackdown on religious activity by the country's citizens.

Earlier this month, the State Council released a draft set of draconian rules setting out measures aimed at eliminating unofficial Christian worship, "separatists" among Tibetans and Muslim Uyghurs.

The rules look set to take effect from Oct. 7, after the public consultation period ends.

They include bans on preaching or running religious events in schools, and on "providing religious services online."

Individuals and groups are also prohibited from "organizing citizens to attend religious training, conferences and activities overseas," according to a copy of the draft rules seen by RFA.

Some of the rules call on government agencies to "take precautions against separatism, terrorism and infiltration by foreign forces."

Cross is shown on a church in Zhejiang province, July 27,
2015. Photo courtesy of a church member.
They also impose restrictions on the acceptance of teaching posts in foreign countries, while a clause forbidding "religious activities in unapproved sites" calls on local governments to extend a nationwide crackdown on house churches.

The last set of revisions to the ruling Chinese Communist Party's "Regulations on Religious Affairs" came in 2006.

Christian rights lawyer Li Guisheng, who contributed to the consultation document, said religious practice should enjoy the protections promised in Article 36 of China's constitution.

Detailed controls coming

"Citizens' right to freedom of religious belief is enshrined in ... the constitution, as is state protection for normal religious activities," Li said.

"But there is room for a hidden meaning in the words 'freedom of religious belief,'" he said, adding that freedom to believe and freedom to practice aren't necessarily the same thing.

"If there is freedom of religious belief, then it follows that there should also be freedom in religious practice," he said.

But there are bigger legal issues with the rules, because China's cabinet, the State Council, should in theory lack the power to limit citizens' constitutional rights, he said.

"The State Council is part of the executive, and has no power to enact legislation," Li said. "Only the NPC can do that, in a plenary session."

A Protestant pastor who gave only his surname Zhou told the U.S.-based Christian rights group ChinaAid that the latest version of the regulations sets out the most detailed form of government controls yet.

"The government wants to control everything, even the smallest aspects," Zhou said. "One characteristic of this draft is the empowerment of local government bodies all the way down to grassroots level."

"This revision makes any loosening of religious controls in China much less likely," 'he said, adding: "[Religious life] is becoming impossible."

It quoted pastor Gao Baosheng as saying that the consultation exercise was just for show.

"[This represents] Xi Jinping’s attempt to further manage and suppress religions," Gao said. "The changes in the draft show that the government is imposing more control on major religions."

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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The Christian Post
By Stoyan Zaimov
September 26, 2016 | 9:12 am

■ The Communist Party of China has intensified its ongoing crackdown of Christianity and other faiths with the publication of new rules and regulations that tighten the government's grip on underground churches, persecution watchdog groups have said.

China Aid, which reports on religious freedom issues in China, said late last week that the new restrictions are aimed at dispersing Christian house churches and silencing Tibetan and Xinjiang separatists.

The Revised Draft of Regulations on Religious Affairs is expected to formally come into effect early in October, and includes prohibitions on "organizing citizens to attend religious training, conferences and activities abroad," "preaching, organizing religious activities, and establishing religious institutions or religious sites at schools," and "providing religious services through the internet."

In order to combat what the government describes as terrorism and the influence of foreign powers, the new restrictions will also make it harder to accept teaching posts in foreign countries, or for house churches to gather for worship services.

"The government wants to control everything, even the smallest aspects. One characteristic of this draft is the empowerment of local government bodies all the way down to the communities," one pastor, identified as Zhou, told China Aid.

"This revision will further reduce the possibility of loosening religious control in China. It is becoming impossible."

Chinese Christians have faced violent persecution from
police raids and arrests in 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Pastor Gao Baosheng of a U.S.-based Chinese church added that the laws "are becoming more and more specific and detailed when suppressing Christian family churches, Catholicism, and all other underground religions."

Gao warned that the regulations will serve as a legal base for future suppression.

"This draft will bring upon a religious winter so harsh that we must seek guidance from God," he added.

"Overall, the Revised Draft of Regulations on Religious Affairs is Xi Jinping's attempt to further manage and suppress religions by taking advantage of the laws. By observing these changes in the draft, we can tell that the government is imposing more control on major religions," he added.

Hundreds of underground church members, priests, and other activists have been arrested by the Communist Party for protesting against the nationwide crackdown on churches, which has come in many forms.

Government workers have been forcefully removing church rooftop crosses, calling them building code violations, though groups like China Aid have said that Communist Party officials are seeking to purposefully stem the growth of Christianity.

The crackdown has manifested itself also in restrictions against Christians ministering to children, however.

Two Christian summer camp leaders in the northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region were arrested back in August for allegedly trying to brainwash children.

Government officials accused them of "indoctrinating minors with superstitious beliefs," while Christian parents have been warned that allowing their children to participate in such Christian camps could bar the students from entering higher grade levels in schools.

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22 September 2016

■ A Chinese rights lawyer has been jailed for 12 years - in a move his supporters say is designed to silence him.

Xia Lin, whose clients include artist Ai Weiwei, was found guilty of fraudulently obtaining $700,000 (£550,000) to pay off gambling debts.

But supporters say he is innocent and that the move is designed to intimidate human rights lawyers.
Xia Lin was arrested in November 2014

Last year, China detained hundreds of rights lawyers, in what critics described as an organised crackdown.

Many lawyers have since been released - but several remain in detention, with their wives and families denied access to them.


Maya Wang, Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the 12 year jail term was likely to send a "chill" through the human rights community.

She told AFP: "The sentence is shocking, not only because of its length, but also because it was handed down to a rights lawyer who has tried to protect himself by deliberately taking a low-profile, technical approach to his work."
Xia Lin defended Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (pictured)
Xia Lin is known for defending Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei.

He also represented fellow human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, who was detained after a private seminar discussing the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, while in 2009 he successfully defended a hotel worker who killed a local government official who had tried to rape her.

Xia Lin was arrested in November 2014, as he was preparing to defend Guo Yushan, a rights activist and head of a Chinese think tank.

'History will not forgive this': Media roundup by Kerry Allen, BBC Monitoring

A picture of Xia Lin's wife crying was shared online
Chinese state media have not reported on the 12-year sentence for Xia Lin, so social media users have mainly been learning of the news via independent publications, or word of mouth.

Luo Changping, a journalist at the independent Caijing magazine, posted a picture of Lin Ru, Xia Lin's wife, crying in someone's arms.

The image has been shared widely, with hundreds of sympathetic, yet resigned comments.

Many social media users refused to accept the verdict - but also acknowledged that the likelihood of a successful appeal was low.

User Zhanzhan080808 wrote: "Xia Lin is innocent", while user Liu Suli said: "I curse this court, and those behind it and their strength. History will not forgive this trial."

Lin Ru was surrounded by police officers outside the court
The trial against Mr Xia opened in June this year.

He was originally charged with fraudulently obtaining 10m yuan ($1.5m; £1.1m), but his lawyer Dong Xikui said the court eventually accepted a lower figure of 4.8m yuan.

However, friends say they loaned the lawyer the money willingly.

Mr Xia's wife, Lin Ru, said: "I firmly believe that my husband is innocent. So we need to appeal."

The Chinese Human Rights Defenders group called the sentence a "severe retaliation against a human rights advocate who defended the rule of law".

There was no immediate comment from the court.

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Radio Free Asia

■ Several Chinese dissidents were invited to Germany's Embassy in Beijing on Friday for festivities marking the Oct. 3 Day of German Unity, a move one poet praised as a rare show of support amid an intensifying crackdown on lawyers, activists and bloggers.

Among the guests were activist Hu Jia, the wife of one of the lawyers who disappeared in the July 2015 round-up of hundreds of rights defenders, and journalist Gao Yu, who is on medical parole from a five-year jail term. Gao, 71 or 72, was sentenced to a seven-year jail term in 2015 for "leaking state secrets overseas,”but the sentence was cut on appeal to five years by the Beijing High People's Court last November.

Beijing human rights activist Hu Jia told RFA's Cantonese Service he had talked to European diplomats at the party about the situation of jailed Uyghur scholar IIham Tohti as well as the fate of Xia Lin and other lawyers caught in the crackdown.

Tohti, named last week as a finalist for the European Parliament's 2016 Sakharov Prize, was sentenced to life in prison following his conviction for "separatism" on Sept. 23, 2014.

Lawyer Shang Baojun (L), journalist Gao Yu (C) and writer
Xiang Li (R) raise glasses at the German embasy in Beijing,
Sept. 23, 2016. Photo provided by an activist
Xia Lin, a lawyer whose clients have included dissident artist Ai Weiwei, was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment for "fraud" by a Beijing court on Thursday, in a decision rights groups said was political persecution for handling sensitive cases.

"The diplomats are very concerned about the situation of Tohti in prison and also his family as well. They are mainly concerned about his wife and two young children in Beijing," Hu told RFA.

"I could only say that his health was still good, that he had recovered after his trial. He might have intentionally shown that he was well, so the family would not be worrie...nobody knows," Hu added.

Hu said his ability to update the diplomats on Tohti was limited "because there are strict visitation restrictions imposed."

"His family is not allowed to mention any matters, including to friends. They can't tell him anything about outside the world. What he thinks or his thoughts are not able to be relayed as well," added Hu.

Outspoken poet Wang Zang likened China's repression and censorship to the Berlin Wall.

"There are so many Chinese invited to the Germany embassy, it's quite encouraging. I appreciate that Germany continues to raise concerns the human rights with China, not like other countries," Wang told RFA.

"Taking down the 'Berlin Wall' in China requires the efforts of all," he said.

Reported by Su Yitong and Pan Jiaqing for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated by Vivian Kwan. Written in English by Paul Eckert.

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Radio Free Asia

■ Prominent Chinese rights lawyer Wang Yu, who was 'released' on bail after being held for more than a year on subversion charges, is now under tight surveillance akin to house arrest along with her whole family, her lawyer told RFA.

Concerns are growing for the safety of dozens of human rights lawyers and associates locked up in an unknown location by the Chinese authorities in a crackdown that started in July 2015.

Following a nationwide operation targeting rights lawyers, activists, their families, and employees, at least 19 of the more than 300 detained, questioned, or otherwise affected were held on suspicion of subversion with no access to a lawyer.

Wang Yu and her husband and colleague Bao Longjun were granted bail last month, but the couple has yet to be seen by friends or former colleagues.

Wang Yu (L) and her son Bao Zhuoxuan (R) in an undated
photo. Photo courtesy of a family friend.
According to a lawyer hired by the family, Bao Longjun and Wang Yu have been reunited with their son Bao Zhuoxuan and are currently living in an apartment rented for them by state security police, not far from their parents' homes.

"They are under round-the-clock surveillance by state security police, including when they go out to buy groceries and when they receive permission to visit their parents, when the police go along with them," lawyer Li Yuhan said.

Li said the arrangements were unacceptable.

"She was never guilty of this crime in the first place," he said. "They talk about ruling the country by law, but in reality, they haven't been able to achieve it."

Too much international attention?

He said the ruling Chinese Communist Party likely fears that Wang and her family will attract too much international attention.

"They are trying to cover this up, hoping that over time, interest in this case will wane," Li said. "Then they'll impose much more restrictive measures, when there'll be less of an outcry."

Rights groups say 13 individuals from the “709” crackdown are still being held incommunicado.

But those who were granted 'bail,' including legal assistant Zhao Wei, have also remained under surveillance, and haven't been in touch with their usual social circle since leaving the detention center.

Li said he sees the crackdown on lawyers as part of a wider strategy to eliminate China's nascent civil society.

Observers say Beijing's nationwide "stability maintenance" operations are targeting rights activists, lawyers and non-government groups working to protect the rights of some of the most vulnerable groups in Chinese society.

More than 100 Chinese lawyers wrote to the National People's Congress (NPC) recently to complain about the common harassment and obstruction of defense attorneys by law enforcement agencies and judicial officials.

The letter, signed by prominent attorneys including Ge Yongxiu, Cheng Hai and Liu Shihui, called on the NPC to create a new offense in law, of "impeding the right to a legal defense."

Worsening rights situation

Fellow attorney Ding Xikui said he completely agreed with the suggestion.

"The problem has become extremely serious," Ding said. "The government has already invented a new crime, that of 'disrupting court proceedings,' for lawyers who make a fuss in court."

"They really need to think about this ... because this crimes actually violates the human rights of lawyers when they should be protecting them," Ding said.

"They shouldn't engage in the wholesale persecution of lawyers."

Maya Wang, China researcher at the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), said the government has presided over a worsening human rights situation since President Xi Jinping took power in 2013.

"Detention centers make up all sorts of excuses to prevent lawyers from visiting their clients," Wang said.

"For example, they say that the investigating officer isn't here, or that the detainee has been allocated a different lawyer."

"In doing this, they are breaking their own laws," she said.

Reported by Ng Yik-tung and Lee Lai for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Xin Lin for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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The Guardian
Michael Caster and Peter Dahlin
Thursday 22 September 2016 20.40 EDT

■ The human rights lawyer has been detained on baseless charges. Beijing should drop them and uphold the rule of law

Last July, the Chinese government launched its most widespread crackdown on rule of law advocates in decades, detaining some 300 rights defenders. Some have been held incommunicado since, with lawyers and family members trying to visit them in detention being told to look elsewhere.

Meanwhile, state media has been given exclusive access to parade many activists as criminals on television before their trial.

One of the key targets of the crackdown is lawyer Wang Quanzhang.

Wang has drawn the ire of the government many times for his defence of villagers against corrupt local officials, Falun Gong practitioners and fellow rights activists such as Ni Yulan whose treatment in police custody in 2010 left her confined to a wheelchair.

Li Wenzu, 31, wife of imprisoned lawyer Wang Quanzhang
poses for a portrait with their son Wang Guangwei, 3.
Photograph: Adam Dean for the Guardian
In 2013, Wang was detained during trial for refusing a judge’s illegal demand. This was perhaps the first instance of a rights lawyer being held under a process called judicial detention. Hauling away a lawyer in the middle of defending his client aptly illustrates the barriers to legal aid in China.

Following his release, Wang characteristically treated the incident as a learning opportunity and wrote a legal manual on judicial detention for rights defenders. Wang often devoted as much time to assisting other lawyers as he did defending the rights of those who few others dared to represent.

For this he has suffered in secret detention for over a year and now faces a show trial on charges of subverting state power.

Having known Wang for many years and worked together at China Action until early 2014, we can say he is one of the bravest people we will ever meet. His commitment to the rule of law is unimpeachable. The charges are baseless.

State security has explained that Wang’s crime was defending ‘evil cult’ Falun Gong practitioners and using social media to highlight abuses against his clients. It didn’t seem to matter that these actions aren’t illegal, that Wang has broken no laws.

The lack of actual evidence has been highlighted several times since January. Beginning in March, police and state security have tried to pressure Wang’s wife, Li Wenzu, his parents, and even a fellow lawyer to record video accusations against him. They failed.

The authorities tried coercing responses through threats and promises of lightening his sentence, while the detention centre denied his lawyers and tearful family any contact on the pretext of having no record of him.

Li Wenzu has not been spared. She has been harassed and on several occasions detained, a tactic of political violence designed to scare her into betraying her husband or to intimidate Wang into cooperating.

Such lawlessness and abuse of power only reinforces the hollowness of his impending trial.

In early August, the court claimed Wang had given up his right to counsel and preferred a court appointed lawyer, an absurdity for anyone who knows him. Since 2012, Wang has arranged with a trusted colleague to represent him if detained or arrested, a sad necessity in China that most rights lawyers eventually need their own defence lawyers.

Wang has told us many times since 2010 that under no circumstances would he ever accept a court appointed lawyer. It seems no sham trial is complete without a sham lawyer.

At trial, imaginary “hostile foreign forces” will likely be blamed for Wang’s equally imaginary crimes, as we have seen with recent show trials and a slew of anti-Western propaganda videos.

At trial, imaginary ‘hostile foreign forces’ will likely be blamed for Wang’s equally imaginary crimes

Wang’s work with China Action has been used against him, despite our not having worked together since 2014. It seems irrelevant that our work focused on strengthening Chinese law, because the “crimes” for which he stands accused are meaningless unless the implementation of Chinese law itself is seen as subverting state power.

If the government is serious about there being room for the rule of law in China, it must immediately release Wang Quanzhang and dismiss all charges against him. We hope it is. For rights defenders like Wang and his colleagues – who any nation should be proud to have as citizens – a conviction will reaffirm that it is not.

Michael Caster and Peter Dahlin are co-founders of the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (China Action), which existed in China from 2009 until the beginning of 2016, when it was targeted by the Chinese government.

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China Aid
Reported in Chinese by Qiao Nong. Translated by Carolyn Song. Edited in English by Ava Collins.

(Beijing—Sept. 22, 2016) The State Council of the People’s Republic of China has released a draft of a new set of religious restrictions, scheduled to be officially enacted in early October. The restrictions aim to suppress all unofficial religious activities via dispersing Christian house churches, silencing Tibetan and Xinjiang separatists and undermining the Vatican’s influence on Chinese Catholics.

Authorities released the Revised Draft of Regulations on Religious Affairs (To Be Approved) to the public to gather opinion. The draft will stop accepting suggestions on Oct. 7, at which point the Council will formally bring the document into effect.

Currently the draft, based on the previous Regulations on Religious Affairs, contains nine chapters and 74 articles. Some of the proposed articles include prohibitions on “organizing citizens to attend religious trainings, conferences and activities abroad,” “preaching, organizing religious activities, and establishing religious institutions or religious sites at schools,” and “providing religious services through the internet.”

There are also articles emphasizing state security and taking precautions against secessionism, terrorism, and infiltration of foreign powers. Restrictions on “accepting teaching posts in foreign countries” and “organizing religious activities in unapproved religious sites” are meant to hinder house churches and reduce contact with organizations outside of the government-controlled Chinese churches.

Revisions to the Regulations on Religious Affairs occur approximately every ten years, with new revisions appearing in both 1995 and 2006.

“Studying the newly revised Regulations on Religious Affairs, it is evident that the Party wants to take charge of religion,” a pastor named Zhou said. “The government wants to control everything, even the smallest aspects. One characteristic of this draft is the empowerment of local government bodies all the way down to the communities. This revision will further reduce the possibility of loosening religious control in China. It is becoming impossible.”

Gao Baosheng, the pastor of a U.S.-based Chinese church, wrote an article on the new revisions, titled, “The Alarming Changes in the Revised Draft of Regulations on Religious Freedom,” in which he stated: “We can see that the government is clenching tighter and tighter on Christianity, Catholicism, Buddhism and Islam. The laws are becoming more and more specific and detailed when suppressing Christian family churches [Editor’s note: “Family church” is another way of translating the word “house church.”], Catholicism, and all other underground religions. The revisions provide a powerful legal base for future suppression. The conditions of religious freedom in China are worsened for them. This draft will bring upon a religious winter so harsh that we must seek guidance from God.”

Gao also said he believes the government “seeking public opinion” is nothing more than formality.

“Overall,” Gao said, “the Revised Draft of Regulations on Religious Affairs is Xi Jinping’s attempt to further manage and suppress religions by taking advantage of the laws. By observing these changes in the Draft, we can tell that the government is imposing more control on major religions.”

China Aid reports on instances of religious freedom abuse and persecution, such as the increased restrictions on religious activity outlined in the new draft of the Regulations on Religious Affairs.

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The Wall Street Journal
By Josh Chin
Sept. 22, 2016 8:18 a.m. ET

■ Xia Lin was found guilty of fraud for failing to repay personal loans; defense says case was brought for political reasons

Beijing—A Chinese lawyer who represented dissident artist Ai Weiwei and other politically sensitive figures was sentenced to 12 years in prison by a Beijing court, the harshest punishment in a series of prosecutions of human-rights lawyers.

Policemen stand around Lin Ru, the wife of civil rights lawyer
Xia Lin, near the Beijing Number 2 People's Intermediate
Court after her husband was sentenced to 12 years in prison on
fraud charges in Beijing on Thursday. Photo: Reuters
Xia Lin was handed the sentence on Thursday after being found guilty of fraud for failing to repay millions of yuan in personal loans, according to his lawyer, Ding Xikui. He said Mr. Xia protested the decision as he was escorted from the courtroom.

“He said he believed the case was brought in revenge for his work on the Occupy Hong Kong protests and other human-rights cases,” Mr. Ding said. “I agree with that view.”

Before being detained in late 2014, Mr. Xia had agreed to represent a number of mainland Chinese activists who were rounded up after expressing support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. During his time in police custody, interrogators barely mentioned the fraud allegations, his lawyers said in statements to the court, instead focusing on his relationships with dissidents.

His lawyers said that Mr. Xia had borrowed money from several individuals and that there was nothing illegal about how he handled his debts.

Xia Lin in July 2011 Photo: Associated Press
The court didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment submitted after normal business hours. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a regular press briefing on Thursday that the case was a domestic matter and that it was being handled in accordance with the law.

Mr. Xia is one of dozens of Chinese human-rights lawyers detained as Chinese President Xi Jinping has moved to squeeze the space for dissent. His sentence was the longest imposed on a lawyer since the crackdown began.

A number of the lawyers were released or handed relatively light sentences after providing confessions, many of them broadcast on state television. Mr. Xia refused to confess, according to Mr. Ding.

An activist client and friend of Mr. Xia’s, Guo Yushan, said in a statement published just ahead of the court decision that no sentence was likely to intimidate the lawyer.

“Whether we’re slandered or given heavy sentences—what surprise will it be in today’s China?” Mr. Guo wrote.

Mr. Xia intends to appeal the decision, his lawyer said.

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Human Rights Watch
Sophie Richardson
China Director
September 20, 2016 7:00pm EDT Dispatches
China Wants You to Forget Ilham Tohti

■ Uyghur Critic, 2 Years Into Life Sentence, Should Be Freed

It’s been two years since Ilham Tohti, a well-regarded ethnic Uyghur economist and peaceful critic of the Chinese government, was sentenced to life in prison by the Xinjiang People’s High Court for alleged “separatism” after a grossly unfair trial. Tohti and his family had already endured years of harassment and periods of house arrest by state agents, but in September 2014 Beijing evidently felt it necessary to take him off the grid permanently.

Ilham Tohti speaks to students at Beijings's Minzu University
of China in 2009. © 2009 Associated Press
Since then, human rights defenders and the rule of law in China have been under sustained attack from President Xi Jinping’s government. But the dynamics in Xinjiang – a region synonymous with gross discrimination against the predominantly Muslim Uyghur population, restrictions on religion and speech, economic development plans that favor Han Chinese over Uyghurs, and now a highly politicized counterterrorism campaign to stem violence – provide fertile ground for further serious human rights violations.

The signs are ominous: restrictions on observing Ramadan are now an annual reality, and some Uyghurs are now being required to give DNA samples and other biodata in order to obtain passports. China’s state media reports on counterterrorism operations when it’s politically convenient to do so, but we don’t know how many local residents die in these raids, how those detained in connection with the operations are treated, or even whether the state is responding to a credible threat. Hundreds – perhaps thousands – of Uyghurs have fled the country, some of whom have been forcibly returned under Chinese government pressure.

Tohti had been well-placed to help lessen some of these tensions. He critiqued and proposed solutions to the economic discrimination against Uyghurs. He spoke passionately about how an independent legal system could ease abuses in the region. And perhaps most important, he helped Xinjiang-watchers inside and outside China understand developments there, and urged peaceful debate – not violence – among students, scholars, and others.

In heartening gestures of solidarity and recognition, the Martin Ennals Foundation and theEuropean Parliament have recently announced that Professor Tohti is a finalist for their prominent human rights awards this year. But if Beijing was actually serious about stability, economic development, and respect for human rights in Xinjiang, it would give itself and many others the most important prize: Ilham Tohti’s freedom.

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