Wednesday saw the continuation of a wave of criminal charges against rights lawyers and others detained since the Black Friday crackdown six months ago. Wang Yu, who represented figures including Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti and feminist activist Li Tingting, has now been charged with subversion of state power, while her husband Bao Longjun faces the lesser charge of inciting subversion. Both were allegedly part of “a large, well-organized, and tightly coordinated group of ‘rights defense’ lawyers, provocateurs, and petitioners” stirring up rights-related cases with ulterior motives. From Chris Buckley at The New York Times:
“Subversion of state power is serious,” Li Yuhan, a lawyer representing Ms. Wang, said. “It could attract a life sentence.”
[…] Ms. Li said that claims laid out in reports on Chinese state-run television of rabble-rousing court disruptions by Ms. Wang, even if proven to be true, were “not enough to constitute subversion.”
The unusually heavy allegations of subversion illustrate the party leadership’s determination to dismantle the loose movement of lawyers who have used litigation, online appeals and publicity to challenge arbitrary power, said Maya Wang, a researcher on China for Human Rights Watch. “The scale of this roundup is unprecedented in recent years,” said Ms. Wang, who is based in Hong Kong.
“This mass roundup of lawyers is meant to, through targeting lawyers affiliated with Fengrui law firm, strike fear at the community of human rights lawyers to significantly curtail their activism,” she said. “The authorities are basically labeling this modus operandi of the rights movement as a form of subversion.” [Source]
The political charges do not come out of the blue: Wang and Sui Muqing, who was released on “bail” this week, have both previously been reported to be under suspicion of inciting subversion. But rights researcher Joshua Rosenzweig commented on Twitter this week that the “narrative seems to have shifted from ‘taming’ disobedient lawyers to wiping out threats to [the] regime.” Earlier state media reports emphasized the targets’ alleged greed and vanity over any political goals: while they were accused of “turning sensitive incidents into political ones, […] and inciting discontent with the government,” this was portrayed primarily as a means towards those selfish ends.
Wang in particular was suffered attacks on her character, with state media describing her as “shrewish” and hysterical. (Accounts from other quarters contradict this picture.) She was later shown in an emotional state on state broadcaster CCTV, condemning a failed attempt to take her son Bao Zhuoxuan out of the country. The younger Bao is now under house arrest.