A lawyer in China has been charged with subversion this week for his continuous defense of human rights.
Lawyer Chang Weiping was charged last year with “inciting subversion” but it was changed to “subversion” early this month.
Human rights groups said the both charges are frequently used to target human rights defenders in China.
Chang, who has been representing clients in cases related to freedom of religion or belief and forced demolition and discrimination, has been in detention since Oct. 22 last year.
As a result of torture during a previous period of detention, the lawyer lost the use of two of his fingers.
On Feb. 5, Chang’s wife, Chen Zijuan, released a statement that described the torture Chang was subjected to in a previous period of detention in January 2020.
Chen said her husband was tied up and forced to sit in a “tiger chair,” causing intense pain and swelling in his legs, as well as sleep deprivation and denial of adequate food.
Human rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said in a statement that the subversion charge against Chang “is particularly concerning.”
Charges of “inciting subversion” could carry a sentence of approximately five years, depending on the act and level of involvement, while the charge of “subversion” can carry even heavier punishments up to a life sentence.
Since July 2015, numerous activists and lawyers have been charged with subversion-related charges for working on “sensitive” cases, including those involving freedom of religion and belief.
In December 2019, Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Church was sentenced to nine years in prison following his conviction on charges of “inciting to subvert state power” and “illegal business operations.”
In their statement CSW condemned the charges against Chang.
“This is yet another example of the Chinese Communist Party’s arbitrary suppression of a lawyer who has peacefully defended the fundamental human rights of Chinese citizens,” said Mervyn Thomas, president of CSW.
“We call on the international community to raise this case with the Chinese authorities at every opportunity, and to call for Chang’s immediate and unconditional release,” added Thomas.