A southern China court on Monday sentenced three prominent labor organizers to suspended prison terms, almost nine months after they were arrested during a crackdown on civic organizations working outside of the Communist Party. Zeng Feiyang, who was indicted on claims of “gathering a crowd to disturb social order” was sentenced [NYT report] to three years with a four-year suspension, while the two other organizers, Tang Jian and Zhu Xiaomei, were sentenced to one-and-a-half years with two-year suspensions. The three activists were important figures in the labor movement in China, effective at organizing workers to fight for higher wages and better working conditions. Recent downturn in China’s economy and labor shortages have led to a crackdown by the government on such activities. While the activists will not immediately serve prison terms and their sentences have been called “a relatively good result” [Reuters report] by human rights lawyer Chen Xuejin, the suspended sentences will make it difficult for the three men to continue with their labor work.
China’s human rights record has drawn international scrutiny. Last week a Chinese court sentenced [JURIST report] noted human rights lawyer Xia Lin to 12 years in prison. In July China announced plans to prosecute [JURIST report] prominent human rights lawyer Zhou Shifeng on charges of subverting state power, furthering its recent crackdown on political dissidents. In April a civil rights lawyer was arrested and released [JURIST report] for posting an image online mocking Xi in relation to the Panama Papers release. In January Chinese authorities arrested [JURIST report] high profile human rights lawyer Wang Yu and her husband on charges of political subversion.