China: Political commentator sentenced to 14 years
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the release of Chinese political commentator Xu Zhiyong, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for “subversion” after three years in detention during which he was submitted to torture.
On 10 April, prominent Chinese political commentator Xu Zhiyong, 50, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for "subversion of state power" by the Linshu County Court of Shandong Province. He was arrested in Guangzhou on 15 February 2020 after having published an opinion piece critical of general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping and his handling of the Covid-19 crisis.
“Political commentator Xu Zhiyong, was only serving the public interest by commenting on the political situation and should never be arrested, not to mention tortured and sentenced to such a harsh prison term. We call on the international community to step up its pressure on the Chinese regime so they release Xu as well as all 114 detained journalists and press freedom defenders.
Xu was sentenced along with civil rights activist Ding Jiaxi, who received 12 years prison term, after a closed-door trial which took place in June 2022. Both have reportedly been deprived of water, food and sleep, and subjected to prolonged interrogations on the "tiger chair", a notorious instrument of torture used by the Chinese police, during detention. Xu’s fiancée, rights activist Li Qiaochu, was herself detained in February 2021 on suspicion of “inciting subversion” after posting information about Xu and Ding’s treatment in custody.
Relentless fight for a free and fair China
Xu Zhiyong, the founder of the New Citizens' Movement -an informal network of activists advocating for governance reforms and denouncing corruption- was previously jailed for 4 years in 2014 on charge of "gathering a crowd to disturb order in a public place".
Except for Xu, at least nine Chinese journalists or press freedom defenders have been arrested for their coverage or comments on handling of Covid-19 pandemic in China, four of which are still detained, including journalist Zhang Zhan, and political commentators Guo Quan, Fang Bin and Ren Zhiqiang.
China ranks 175th out of 180 in the 2022 RSF World Press Freedom Index and is the world's largest captor of journalists.