The United States condemns the PRC’s unjust detention and sentencing of two prominent human rights defenders. On April 10, a court in Shandong province sentenced Xu Zhiyong to 14 years in prison and Ding Jiaxi to 12 years, for, as U.S. State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel wrote, “supporting the exercise of internationally recognized fundamental freedoms, such as the freedom of assembly and expression.”
Both Xu and Ding have been imprisoned before. Both lawyers played key roles in the New Citizens Movement, which began in 2010 and advocated for ordinary citizens to exercise their fundamental human rights; the end to corruption; and access to education for all children. Ding was imprisoned from 2013 to 2016, and Xu from 2014 to 2018. Hundreds of other lawyers associated with the Movement were arrested and many disbarred in the crackdown on human rights defenders that began after Xi Jinping consolidated his power and became President in 2013.
After their release from prison, Both Xu and Ding were again arrested following a private gathering of lawyers and civil society activists in 2019.
U.S. Principal Deputy Spokesperson Patel said in a statement, “We urge the PRC to immediately and unconditionally release these two detained human rights defenders and to cease any harassment of their family members. We similarly call upon the PRC to release others who were unjustly detained or imprisoned, to reinstate the lawyers were unjustly disbarred, and to allow all individuals to exercise their fundamental freedoms. The United States,” he declared, “will always stand with the brave individuals in the PRC and around the world who defend human rights.”