Chinese human rights activist Zhai Yanmin, who was detained during the “709 crackdown” on lawyers and activists last July, has been sentenced to three years in prison with a four year suspension. He will also be deprived of his political rights for four years, according to the Xinhua News Agency, who said that he was a “paid political organiser.”

Zhai was charged with “subverting state power.” Activist Hu Shigen, Gou Hongguo and lawyer Zhou Shifeng, who are similarly charged, are also facing trial.

Zhai’s “open trial” began at the Tianjin Second Intermediate People’s Court on Tuesday morning and his sentence was announced in the early afternoon. According to Xinhua, he said that he used a set method to “create resistance against the law, tarnish the reputation of the police, stir trouble and attract attention, provoke protesters onto the streets, create conflict between people and officials and let international society interfere, topple the leadership of the Communist Party and proceed with a colour revolution.”

china human rights lawyers crackdown
Zhai Yanmin speaking on TV. File photo: Screenshot.

Xinhua said that Zhai pled guilty and decided not to appeal.

House arrest

Liu Ermin, the wife of Zhai, was confined to her house in Bejing as the trial began. Li Wenzu and Wang Qiaoling, the wives of lawyers Wang Quanzhang and Li Heping, were similarly confined.

The three, along with Fan Lili, Gou Hongguo’s wife, went to the Tianjin court to inquire about the trial date last Friday.

Photo: screenshot via Youtube.
Wang Qiaoling (left) and Liu Ermin (right) outside the Tianjin Court. Photo: Screenshot via Youtube.

Liu and Wang were uncontactable from Sunday evening to Monday after being taken by police. They returned to their residences on Monday night. Li Wenzu was also taken away for questioning from her Beijing home at around 5 pm on Monday, according to the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group. The group said the three returned separately to their residences on Monday night, where authorities were standing guard.

Correction 5/8: A previous version of this article suggested that Li Heping was awaiting trial along with Zhai, Zhou and Hu. In fact, activist Gou Hongguo was likely to be facing trial in the same week. 

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.