China: Activist Li Qiaochu unjustly convicted ‘for speaking out about torture’

Responding to the conviction and sentencing to three years and eight months in jail of Chinese workers’ rights and women’s rights activist Li Qiaochu for “inciting subversion of state power”, Amnesty International’s China director Sarah Brooks said:

“The unjust conviction of Li Qiaochu is the culmination of the Chinese government’s cruel campaign to silence her.

“She has been harassed and held by police for four years for running a blog that shared articles written by her jailed partner, the prominent legal scholar Xu Zhiyong. But it also appears the authorities have punished Li because she dared to publicly share details of the torture inflicted on Xu and the ill-treatment she herself faced in detention.

“Li has been ruthlessly targeted for expressing views the Chinese authorities would prefer to suppress – on the premise that her speech could somehow topple the government. Her conviction highlights the grave dangers of peacefully advocating for human rights in Xi Jinping’s China.

“It is shameful that the Chinese authorities have jailed Li for speaking out against torture and ill-treatment rather than properly investigating the allegations she made. It is now imperative that they ensure Li is not subject to further ill-treatment in prison.

“Li Qiaochu has been jailed solely for exercising her right to freedom of expression. She must be released immediately and unconditionally.”


The Linyi Intermediate People’s Court today convicted Li Qiaochu of “subversion of state power” and sentenced her to three years and eight months years in prison, including time served, as well as two years’ deprivation of political rights. Li, who is expected to be released on 3 August 2024, said she plans to appeal against the conviction.

Li Qiaochu is an activist and researcher whose work focuses on women’s rights and workers’ rights. She was first summoned by the police on 31 December 2019 and held for 24 hours at the Beijing Public Security Bureau, where she was questioned about the whereabouts of her partner Xu Zhiyong, who had attended an informal gathering of activists in the southeastern city of Xiamen earlier that month.

After she criticized the police’s treatment of her online on 9 January 2020, Li was taken into custody on 16 February 2020 and detained incommunicado under “residential surveillance at a designated location”, a measure that enables criminal investigators to hold individuals for up to six months outside the formal detention system in what can amount to a form of secret incommunicado detention. Five states called on China to repeal the measure during China’s Universal Periodic Review last month.

After being released on bail on 19 June 2020, she was again arrested on 14 March 2021 under the charge of “inciting subversion of state power” after she tweeted about the harsh conditions at Linshu County Detention Centre, where Xu Zhiyong was detained. According to the indictment, Li was charged for “inciting subversion” because she “is Xu Zhiyong’s partner and deeply influenced by his subversive thoughts” and deemed to “spread subversive thoughts” by helping Xu publish his “subversive articles” online, a refence to a blog she ran while Xu was in detention.

Prior to her conviction, Li Qiaochu was held at a detention centre at Linyi, Shandong province, and her family had expressed concern about her deteriorating mental health.

On 10 April 2023, Xu Zhiyong was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for “subversion of state power”.

Human rights defenders in China continue to face intimidation, harassment, arbitrary detention, as well as torture and other ill-treatment for defending human rights and exercising their freedoms of expression and association. Such harassment and intimidation often also extends to their family members and colleagues.

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