China sends out a warning with 12-year sentence for human rights lawyer

A human rights lawyer has been sentenced to 12 years in prison by a court in China. Xia Lin, whose clients included the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, was jailed by the Beijing Second Intermediate People’s Court after earlier being found guilty of fraud. It is understood to be the longest jail sentence received in China by a human rights lawyer. “We’ve been striving to defend his innocence,” his lawyer, Ding Xikui, said. “Even one day in prison is too much.”

The harsh sentence against Xia Lin sends the sternest warning yet to the community of human rights lawyers that they must toe the party line.

Maya Wang, a Hong Kong-based researcher with Human Rights Watch.Wang

Mr Xia was detained in November 2014, after taking on the case to defend activist Guo Yushan, who openly supported Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. He was accused of coercing associates into lending him money to pay off gambling debts and was convicted on 17 September after a trial lasting five hours. His wife, Lin Ru, said her husband was denied the right to speak at the hearing and was dragged out of the court room by the police. He shouted from the corridor: “I know this is revenge to me because I was the lawyer for all those sensitive cases.”

I trust my husband. He didn’t commit fraud. He’s innocent. I will appeal and carry on the legal procedure. I was prepared for the worst, but it still came as a huge blow to me, I didn’t know how to react, I felt numb

Mr Xia’s wife Lin Ru