Chinese authorities in the troubled western region of Xinjiang have jailed a retired judge in a quasi-military Xinjiang Production and Construction Corp brigade, or bingtuan, on suspicion of "incitement to racial hatred."
Huang Yunmin, former judge in the bingtuan's Third Brigade in Kashgar prefecture was held on an administrative sentence last week, after he helped local workers protest at their treatment by the authorities.
He was handed an administrative sentence for "incitement to racial hatred and ethnic discrimination" by police in the bingtuan city of Tumxuk, local sources told RFA.
A local resident who knows Huang said he should have been released by Saturday.
"They detained him on March 7, and he should have been released on March 12, but then they issued an administrative sentence notification for incitement to ethnic hatred and ethnic discrimination," the resident, who gave only his surname Zhang, said.
"This are random, trumped-up charges," Zhang said, adding that police had also accused of Huang of having pornographic images on his phone.
"They basically couldn't come up with anything on him," he said, adding that Huang is a former member of the ruling Chinese Communist Party. "It's only incitement to ethnic hatred if you actually say something in public."
"He wouldn't do something like that ... He definitely has opinions about [the government's policies towards ethnic minorities], but that's not a crime," Zhang said.
Helped vulnerable groups
A second source told RFA that Huang, 58, had served as a judge at the bingtuan's Third Brigade People's Court in Tumxuk since the 1990s, rising to become head of human resources before taking early retirement.
He had later made a name for himself as an able legal advocate, and had offered legal assistance to vulnerable groups of workers on the bingtuan's farming operations, and had previously been detained on a number of occasions.
In particular, Huang had helped a migrant worker from Henan province lodge an official complaint in Beijing, the source said.
Zhang said he also believes Huang's detention is linked to his legal advocacy work.
"I'm guessing that it's because he represented someone in a lawsuit," he said. "The judge at the time wasn't making decisions according to the law, and Huang said he would lodge a complaint to a higher level."
"That's not against the law," Zhang said. "But the local officials were afraid for their jobs, so they did everything they could to go after [Huang]."
"If you ask me, the law has been put in shackles; it's terrifying."
Shanghai-based rights activist Hu Jianguo said Huang is a widely respected judge and legal advocate.
"As a judge, the one thing we can be sure of is that Huang Yunmin had a keen sense of justice and understood the law," Hu told RFA. "He is a senior [lawyer], worthy of respect."
"He would put himself on the line to defend the interests of ordinary people," he said. "If Huang Yunmin is criminalised for having pornographic images, then they might as well shut down the whole of China's internet."
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.