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Rights activist Li Qiaochu stands trial in Shandong for subversion

Li was detained in 2021 after posting allegations that jailed friends had been tortured.

Feminist labor rights activist Li Qiaochu's secret trial for "incitement to subvert state power" has been suspended after the authorities fired her defense team, according to a rights group and a fellow activist's wife.

Li was detained in 2021 after posting to social media the details of torture allegations by her partner, the jailed rights activist Xu Zhiyong, and by fellow jailed rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi

She stood trial at the Linyi Economic and Technological Development Zone People's Court on Dec. 19, the wife of a fellow activist told Radio Free Asia.

"The trial was held behind closed doors," said Luo Shengchun, Ding’s wife. "Neither family members nor outsiders were allowed inside."

"Her father stood outside the building waiting for the verdict, but none was announced at the trial," Luo said.

The rights group Frontline Defenders said in a statement on its website that the trial had been "suspended" after one of Li Qiaochu's lawyers refused to submit to being searched on the way into the courtroom.

"Her other lawyer entered the courtroom, but the judge denied his legitimate requests to summon defense witnesses, to gain access to evidence held by the prosecution, and to seek the recusal of officials with perceived conflicts of interest in the case," the group said.

"As a result of his inability to perform his duty as the defense counsel, the lawyer asked Li Qiaochu to dismiss him and exited the courtroom in protest," it said, adding that both lawyers have been denied permission to meet with her and new defense lawyers will be appointed.

Li Qiaochu suffers from serious symptoms of depression and auditory hallucinations, the group said.

Defense attorney

Luo confirmed that defense attorney Li Guobei wasn't even informed of the trial date, citing her post on the social media platform Weibo. Li had traveled to the court anyway, but was prevented from entering because she refused to submit to a security search.

"[The authorities] fired Li Guobei, although a lawyer can only be fired by the client or their family," she said.

U.S.-based rights lawyer Wu Shaoping said Li had behaved ethically.

"Lawyer Li Guobei was still brave enough to speak out despite the authorities' restriction, and their deprivation of [Li Qiaochu's] right to legal representation," Wu said. 

"The authorities don't want human rights lawyers getting involved in such cases," he said. 

ENG_CHN_LiQiaochuTrial_12212023.2.jpg
"The authorities don't want human rights lawyers getting involved in such cases," says U.S.-based rights lawyer Wu Shaoping. (Provided by Wu Shaoping)

Sarah Brooks, spokesperson for London-based rights group Amnesty International, said Li's trial was an attempt to "put a veneer of legitimacy over years of harassment and detention aimed at silencing her peaceful dissent."

She said the evidence against Li Qiaochu was "vanishingly thin," and amounted to little more than "guilt by association" with Xu.

"First, they targeted her for nothing more than running a blog that shared articles written by her jailed partner," Brooks said. "And when she showed the immense courage nonetheless to publicly share details of Xu’s ill-treatment in custody, she was again punished."

"Li should not suffer retaliation for speaking out against torture or publicizing views at odds with those of the government," Brooks said, calling for Li Qiaochu's immediate and unconditional release.

Dutch award

In December 2022, the Netherlands honored Li Qiaochu with the 2022 Embassy Tulip award in recognition of her dedication to women’s rights and labor rights.

Li has been held in Shandong's Linyi city since her initial detention on Feb. 6, 2021, on suspicion of "subverting state power."

Her lawyer raised concerns over her mental health after being permitted a rare visit with her in August 2021. Li, who was diagnosed with depression before her arrest, needs long-term medication.

The Dutch award came amid international calls for Li's release, including from European Union officials attending the United Nations' Human Rights Council in September 2022.

Li, now in her early 30s, is a long-term campaigner against gender-based violence and for labor rights.

In 2017, she volunteered to provide information and resources to affected migrant workers when Beijing authorities forcibly removed them from the city, and boosted the visibility of China’s #MeToo movement by compiling data on sexual harassment.

She also campaigned against a culture of long hours in the workplace.

Xu is currently serving a 14-year jail term for “subversion of state power,” while Ding is serving a 12-year sentence on the same charge, in connection with a gathering of dissidents in the southeastern port city of Xiamen in December 2019.

Translated with additional reporting by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.


This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by By Gao Feng for RFA Mandarin.


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