August 25, 2017 / 10:18 AM / a month ago

Germany says Chinese rights activist won't get fair hearing

Pro-democracy demonstrators hold up portraits of Chinese disbarred lawyer Jiang Tianyong, demanding his release, during a demonstration outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, China December 23, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/Files

BEIJING (Reuters) - Germany’s ambassador to China said on Friday it was “impossible” that a prominent Chinese former rights lawyer who admitted to subversion during a trial this week would get a fair hearing.

Jiang Tianyong, 46, said in court on Tuesday he was inspired to overthrow China’s political system by workshops he had attended overseas, according to videos of him reading a statement released by the court.

Jiang’s wife and activists said the hearing was a show trial designed to discredit him and Jiang was likely coerced into confessing. A date for the verdict has not been released.

“We are concerned that throughout the proceedings Jiang Tianyong has not been allowed access to lawyers of his own choosing and that he was obviously prejudged through a ‘confession’ aired by Chinese TV before his trial had even begun,” German Ambassador Michael Clauss said in a statement released on the embassy’s website.

“Under these circumstances, a fair trial is impossible,” Clauss said, adding that Germany had raised Jiang’s case with Chinese officials since last November.

Western diplomats regularly meet Chinese rights activists and lawyers, but embassies only publicly speak out in cases they consider especially troubling or in instances where private discussion with China has been ineffective.

Germany has been particularly outspoken about a crackdown in recent years on rights activists.

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.

China has said about similar cases in the past that other countries should not meddle in its internal affairs and that all citizens of China are equal before Chinese law.

Jiang, who was disbarred in 2009 after taking on cases related to sensitive issues such as the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong, had criticized a crackdown on dissent that has been ongoing since the summer of 2015.

Jiang went missing in November 2016 while visiting the family of another detained lawyer, Xie Yang. He was charged with subversion of state power more than six months later.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights and extreme poverty, Philip Alton, met Jiang during a visit to China last year and has expressed concern that his disappearance was in part reprisal for their meeting.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Tony Munroe, Robert Birsel

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