■ China draws criticism for sentencing in highly suspect trials two house church leaders and two other activists detained from last year’s nationwide political crackdown.
The United States and several human rights advocates blasted China for convicting house church leaders Hu Shigen and Gou Hongguo, as well as human rights advocate Zhai Yanmin and human rights lawyer Zhou Shifeng on charges of subversion in surprise trials last week.
Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court handed Hu, a 61-year-old church elder, with seven and a half years imprisonment Wednesday while Gou, a 55-year-old Christian activist, received Friday a three-year suspended sentence.
The court also gave 55-year-old Zhai with a three-year suspension sentence Tuesday while Zhou, the 52-year-old director of Fengrui law firm, received a seven-year sentence.
The communist state arrested more than 200 activists and lawyers, including the four convicted individual, in its nationwide political clampdown in July last year.
|(Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon) A court building where a trial of
Chinese civil rights lawyer Xia Lin is being held, is pictured
in Beijing, China, June 17, 2016.
“After more than 12 months of arbitrary arrest and detention in ‘black jails’ without any legitimate legal representation or family visitations, these rushed trials and harsh sentences are clearly nothing but political and religious persecution,” said Bob Fu, China Aid president, in a statement Friday.
Fu also cited U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Christopher Smith, the two co-chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), for undermining the trials as a “mockery of justice.”
Smith described the court proceedings as “the charade of forced ‘confessions’ and show trials.” He warned that this only erodes China’s global standing as well as the confidence in President Xi Jinping’s compliance with the rule of law. Rubio added that the situation in China “continues to deteriorate, and no one is held to account” a year since the political crackdown.
Both Fu and Smith urged the U.S. and world leaders to express these concerns during the G-20 Summit to be held in China next month.
Mark Turner, the spokesman for the U.S. state department, also condemned the charges as “vague and apparently politically motivated.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying to rebuff the U.S. accusations as “groundless.”
“Chinese judicial authorities deal with related cases in accordance with law so that the legitimate rights,” Xinhua quoted Hua as saying on Saturday, according to The Guardian.