BEIJING â€” A Chinese court has convicted a prominent Christian human rights lawyer on charges of subverting state power and sentenced him to three years in prison, with the sentence suspended for four years, the court said Friday.
Li Heping was one of hundreds detained in July 2015 in a crackdown by Chinese authorities on rights lawyers and activists. He is among four lawyers and a number of activists still in detention. According to law, he will not have to serve the three-year sentence if he doesn’t commit any other offences during the four-year suspension period, although he has already been detained for almost two years.
As a lawyer, Li defended dissidents, victims of forced evictions and members of the banned Falun Gong meditation sect.
The Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court said in an online statement that Li’s trial was held Tuesday behind closed doors because the case involved state secrets.
It said that since 2008 Li had repeatedly used the internet and interviews with foreign media to discredit and attack state power and the legal system. It said he had also used unspecified foreign funds to intervene in high-profile legal cases and colluded with unnamed “illegal religious activists,” some lawyers and other people with the aim of making citizens feel dissatisfied with Chinese institutions.
President Xi Jinping has spearheaded a crackdown on civil society under which some lawyers have been labeled threats to national security. Critics say the crackdown is aimed at snuffing out any potential opposition to the ruling Communist Party. Western governments have urged Chinese authorities to release the lawyers and activists.
The Associated Press