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China rights advocate Jiang pleads guilty to 'subversion'

The disbarred Chinese human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong has confessed to "inciting subversion of state power." He disappeared while in custody for several months after being arrested last November.

On Tuesday, the prominent Chinese human rights campaigner Jiang Tianyong pleaded guilty to a charge of inciting subversion of state power. The Changsha Intermediate People's Court in the central province of Hunan broadcast parts of Jiang's trial on its social media account - unusual for such a politically sensitive case.

"I wanted to ... mislead internet users into hating our country's current social system and into sharing my own sense of dissatisfaction with society in order to inculcate hopes of changing the current social order with the goal of subverting our country's current social order," Jiang said. He added that he had used social media platforms such as Twitter  and Sina Weibo to spread anti-government messages.

Agents disappeared Jiang in November, after he inquired about a lawyer detained as part of a 2015 campaign against lawyers and activists. The lawyer, Xie Yang, had accused officials of torturing him in custody, but recanted when entering his own guilty plea for subversion in May.

A 'sham trial'

Prosecutors downgraded Jiang's charge of subversion to incitement, an infraction often punished with time served while under investigation. That forced Jiang to tell the court on Tuesday that he had "deliberately fabricated torture details of Xie Yang while he was in police detention and played to Western media's taste, aiming to tarnish the image of the government."

Amnesty International condemned the proceedings as a "sham trial." William Nee, the group's China researcher, said Jiang's treatment "epitomizes many of the worrying aspects of the lawyers crackdown." He added that this included the "harassment of family members, not letting the accused access their lawyer, prosecution based on charges that don't comply with international standards, blocking the public from attending, all while presenting the trial as real on social media."

Philip Alton, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights and extreme poverty, publicly expressed fears that a meeting he held with Jiang last fall had caused the arrest. Jiang also met with German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel shortly before his incarceration, and previously held talks with Angela Merkel in Beijing.

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mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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