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Christmas - the best time to clamp down on Chinese dissidents?

Li Wenzu, the wife of Wang Quanzhang, shaves her head in public to protest against her husband’s detention.
Li Wenzu, the wife of Wang Quanzhang, shaves her head in public to protest against her husband’s detention. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Every year, Chinese authorities take advantage of the end-of-the-year media lull to bring political opponents to trial. This year, Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang is being tried for subversion.

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Amnesty International’s Doriane Lau says Chinese authorities choose the end of the year to try dissidents.

Much of the world is on holiday and  reactions to political trials are scarce, she told AFP.

"Fewer journalists and diplomats attend the trial”.

On Christmas Day in 2009, Nobel laureate and Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in prison for subversion. He died last year of terminal liver cancer while in police custody.

Activist Wu Gan, who refused to plead guilty to charges of "subverting state power", was given a eight-year sentence in 2017.

The last of the "709 crackdown" arrests

Wang Quanzhang was one of the 200 lawyers and activists to be arrested in the so-called "709 crackdown" in 2015.

He is reportedly the last person awaiting trial or to be released. 

His trial starts Wednesday morning in the coastal city of Tianjin, east of Beijing.

Before being convicted for subversion in January 2016, Wang was a  lawyer who defended political opponents, members of the banned Falungong sect and land-ridden peasants.

Over the last couple of years, the case of Wang Quanzhang has been catching international attention

Last May, his wife Li Wenzu met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her visit to Beijing.

On Monday, Li was placed under de facto house arrest to stop her from attending her husband’s trial.

Last week, she had shaved her head in public to protest against her husband’s detention.

Besides Li, Chinese authorities are taking measures to ensure that other prominent rights activists and supporters do not attend the lawyer's trial.

(Article by Pauline Bandelier, RFI)

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