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Torture accusations as EU ambassador raises case of Chinese lawyer Xie Yang

The EU ambassador to Beijing said Wednesday that Europe was concerned about the case of detained Chinese lawyer Xie Yang, who rights groups say has been tortured by police.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has overseen a tightening of controls on civil society since assuming power in 2012, closing avenues for legal activism that had opened up in recent years.

xie yang

Xie Yang. Photo: China Change.

While the government initially targeted political activists and human rights campaigners, it has increasingly turned its attention to the legal professionals who represent them.

Xie was arrested in the so-called “709 crackdown” in the summer of 2015, which saw some 200 legal staff and activists detained, and rights groups say that he has suffered physical and psychological torture in the year and a half since he was detained.

“We will continue to take up this and other cases,” EU ambassador Hans Dietmar Schweisgut said at a press conference.

“When it comes to issues of basic human rights, we have an obligation to speak up and we will do so,” he said, adding that the duty remained in all cases where authorities disregarded “the right not to be subject to mistreatment and torture”.

Xie worked on numerous cases considered politically sensitive by the ruling Communist party, such as defending activists who expressed support for the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement.

Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping. Photo: World Economic Forum.

He told his lawyers earlier this month that police had “extensively employed sleep deprivation, long interrogations, beatings, death threats, humiliations” and other abuses as they tried to force him to confess to wrongdoings and incriminate colleagues, according to US-based charity Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD).

After his July 2015 arrest, he was initially held incommunicado for six months in Changsha city, capital of the central province of Hunan, and later moved to a detention centre.

In December, he was indicted on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” and “disrupting court order”, and is currently awaiting trial, said CHRD.

He gave his lawyers the names of 10 police officers involved in his alleged mistreatment, and described being made to sit on a torture device made of a stacked pile of plastic chairs with his feet dangling until circulation was cut off to his legs and feet, causing painful swelling, according to CHRD.

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Torture accusations as EU ambassador raises case of Chinese lawyer Xie Yang