Chinese lawyer Xie Yang tortured into guilty plea in subversion trial

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese human rights lawyer Xie Yang was forced to plead guilty Monday to charges of incitement to subversion and disturbing legal proceedings.

He was also forced to read a sketchy statement in court: “Everyone should take me as a lesson: You must behave within the boundaries of the law, avoid being used by anti-China Western forces,”

The trial in the central city of Changsha was wrapped up by midday without any witnesses called.

In a statement, Xie’s wife, Chen Guiqiu, called the entire trial a sham.

“Your play was performed beautifully,” said Chen, who fled to the U.S. with the couple’s two daughters earlier this year. “Changsha Intermediate People’s Court: history will remember your great trial. All the people who participated in Xie Yang’s trial: history will remember all of you!”

Xie was tortured after being detained in a July 2015 government crackdown on the country’s legal professionals.

In January, Xie gave his lawyer an account saying he had been beaten, deprived of sleep and held in stress positions. The statement said any future confession by Xie would be due to prolonged torture.

The U.S. State Department said Monday it remains deeply concerned about Xie’s well-being and urged the release of him and others lawyers detained in China.

It said Xie’s confession “appeared to be given under duress.” The department said that the lawyer hired by Xie’s family, Chen Jiangang, disappeared last week and was reportedly taken into custody by Chinese authorities.

The department also said it was disturbed by reports that Chinese security services harassed Xie’s family, but it declined to comment on whether it had helped his wife and daughters to come to the U.S.

Prosecutors told the court that Xie used the encrypted messaging app Telegram to conspire with people inside and outside China to “distort incidents of police brutality” to “subvert state power,” “overthrow the socialist system” and “harm national security and social stability,” according to an account on the court’s social media site. Such charges are commonly used to silence lawyers, dissidents, and persecuted groups in China’s courtrooms.

Xie testified that he briefly attended a legal training course in Hong Kong and South Korea, it said. Prosecutors said that indicated he had “shadowy ties to foreign elements.”

The accusations against Xie mirror those brought against other lawyers and activists detained as part of the 2015 crackdown.