A Christian church leader has been jailed in China amid an ongoing crackdown on human rights activists. Hu Shigen has been jailed for more than seven years on charges of subversion, becoming the second person to be jailed in two days for subversion.
According to Chinese state media, Shigen pleaded guilty in Tianjin to "damaging national security and harming social stability". The international community has referred to the cases as a government attempt to silence critics.
Roughly 300 lawyers and activists have been arrested since last year as part of the nationwide crackdown, the BBC reported on 3 August. Out of them, two activists are currently facing trial while around 20 still remain in detention.
Alongside his prison sentence, Shigen has also been stripped of his political rights for five years. The court in Tianjin, where he pleaded guilty, is sentencing a number of activists and lawyers this week as China stated that they are conspiring to overthrow the Chinese Communist Party.
Among them are lawyers from the Fengrui law firm, which Shigen reportedly claimed to have collaborated with about "how to get lawyers involved with sensitive incidents", as well as being connected to "foreign anti-China forces".
However, Shigen's defenders have insisted that his only crime has been to lead underground Christian churches in China that have not been sanctioned by the Communist Party. He has also consistently advocated for greater freedom of speech and religion, according to the Guardian.
On 31 July, a lawyer from the Fengrui firm, Wang Yu, appeared in a video interview apparently blaming "foreign forces" for influencing the law firm's activities and using her family to attack the Chines government. Yu has now been released on bail, however, some experts believe that she agreed to do the interview in order to protect her son and husband, the latter of whom is in detention and also faces charges of subversion.
Jerome Cohen, an expert in Chinese law at New York University, said on 3 August: "To say that her statement was 'probably' the product of coercion is silly since she has been held in an immensely coercive environment for over a year. These 'confessions' are reminiscent of the 'brainwashing' era of the 1950s for which the new China became infamous."