The wife of jailed human rights lawyer Xie Yang has spoken publicly for the first time since arriving in the United States, ahead of her husband's trial on Tuesday, calling for his immediate release amid detailed reports of his torture in detention.
Xie will stand trial at the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court on charges of "incitement to subvert state power" and "disrupting court order," Chen Guiqiu said in a recent statement.
She said the authorities had prevented Xie's defense lawyers from working on the case after they made detailed reports of Xie's torture in detention public, substituting a government lawyer in their place.
"Xie Yang’s family, defense lawyers, and his friends in China and overseas are anxiously watching and waiting for what the authorities will do," wrote Chen.
In a later interview with RFA, Chen Guiqiu called on the ruling Chinese Communist Party to release Xie and other prisoners of conscience who are still behind bars in the country.
"The best thing to do would be to release all of them," Chen said. "International calls for this are growing very strong now."
"None of these people have committed any crime, but they insist on jailing them on trumped-up charges, which is the worst kind of inhumanity," she said.
Magnitsky Act for China?
Chen said New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith had pledged continuing interest in the plight of China's detained rights lawyers, law firm staff and associated activists.
"Rep. Smith is paying close attention to the July 2015 crackdown on lawyers, and he knows all about the torture that these lawyers have suffered, as well as the illegal detention of their family members and so on," Chen said.
"He said he plans to report on this issue ... to President Trump and has a number of measures to address it," she said, in a reference to the Trump administration's reported willingness to bring the Magnitsky Act to bear on Beijing.
The Magnitsky legislation, which originally targeted the Russian officials responsible for the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison in 2009, has been welcomed by Chinese activists as the best chance of holding Chinese officials to account for rights abuses.
Trump said in a letter to the Senate and House of Representatives judiciary committees on Thursday that his administration is "actively identifying persons and entities to whom the Act may apply and are collecting the evidence necessary to apply it."
"Over the coming weeks and months, agencies will undertake thorough interagency vetting to ensure we fulfill our commitment to hold perpetrators of human rights abuses and corruption accountable," the letter said.
Rights activists have repeatedly called for Xie's immediate release in recent months, detailing his lawyers' reports of his torture in a police-run detention center in the central province of Hunan.
Defense attorney Chen Jianggang, one of the lawyers who exposed details of Xie's torture, said he has since been targeted by death threats on social media, and that the authorities' handling of the case had made a mockery of the right to a legal defense.
"Our right to a legal defense is now worth no more than the paper it is written on," Chen Jiangang told RFA. "The authorities can just rip it up whenever they feel like it."
"The law has no effect in the Xie Yang case and as his defense lawyer I feel very heavy hearted and powerless to do anything," he said. "The law is of no use to us lawyers as a weapon any more."
Scant hope of fair trial
Xie's trial judge Liu Zheng declined to confirm the trial date when contacted by RFA on Friday, saying he couldn't speak to journalists who didn't provide their credentials in person.
Meanwhile, rights lawyer Pang Kun said Xie has scant hope of a fair trial after the authorities appointed a government lawyer to defend him.
"Regardless of whether or not Xie Yang actually wanted to hire [government] attorney Jia Xiaoyao or not, the mere appointment of a defense attorney by the judiciary means that this case has now lost all semblance of impartiality," Pang told RFA.
"The whole thing makes a mockery of the justice system in China."
Initially detained on July 11, 2015, Xie was held under "residential surveillance at a designated location" in a government guesthouse belonging to the National University of Defense Technology in Hunan's provincial capital, Changsha.
Subjected to abuse including deprivation of food and water, Xie was tortured again after being moved to the police-run Changsha No. 2 Detention Center following his formal arrest on Jan. 9, 2016.
Xie was subjected to confinement in a "hanging chair" made of plastic chairs stacked high above the ground for hours at a time, so that his legs swelled up and he was in excruciating pain, he told his lawyers.
He was also deprived of sleep and repeatedly beaten, humiliated, and taunted with death threats against his family, according to copious and detailed notes made public from meetings with his lawyers.
Reported by Ng Yik-tung for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Xin Lin for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.