Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the Chinese government on Friday to overturn [press release] a verdict sentencing three human rights activists, including a lawyer, in the Guangdong province to up to five years in prison. The individuals were convicted for “inciting subversion of state power.” HRW argues that the Chinese government under President Xi Jinping has been cracking down human rights activists to encourage adherence to the Communist Party. The group claims that the government has been exercising a broad interpretation of what constitutes subversion in an effort to eliminate peaceful dissent, conflicting with China’s Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression.
Earlier this month, Chinese authorities arrested high profile human rights lawyer Wang Yu and her husband on charges of political subversion. Authorities accused [NYT report] Wang of subversion of state power and her husband Bao Longjun, a trainee lawyer, of inciting subversion of state power. It is believed by rights groups that the detention is part of a crackdown [BBC report] on rights lawyers and members of groups seeking reforms of the country’s legal system. Chinese state media recently criticized [JURIST report] detained human rights lawyers for undermining the rule of law. Last month prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang was released [JURIST report] after receiving a suspended sentence. Pu was detained [JURIST report] in 2014 on a charge of “causing a disturbance” after he attended a weekend meeting that urged an investigation into the 1989 crackdown of pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and was subsequently denied [JURIST report] bail.