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The Chinese authorities must end their persecution of prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, Amnesty International said, ahead of his trial which is set to begin on Monday in Beijing.

According to his lawyers, Pu Zhiqiang faces up to eight years in prison on the charges of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” and “inciting ethnic hatred”, primarily on the basis of seven social media posts, in total around 600 characters, in which he criticized the government.

“The chances of Pu Zhiqiang receiving a fair trial are close to zero. He is being punished solely for standing up to the Chinese government in his courageous defence of human rights,” said Patrick Poon, China Researcher at Amnesty International.

“His trial is an act of political persecution in which the authorities are trying to silence an independent voice. His pre-trial detention has lasted for more than 18 months, with his treatment at the hands of the authorities marred by many irregularities. If there is any justice Pu Zhiqiang would be immediately and unconditionally released.”

Background

Pu Zhiqiang was originally detained by police on 6 May 2014, after he attended a seminar in Beijing that called for an investigation into the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. His prosecution has been marred by repeated procedural irregularities including prolonged pre-trial detention, the denial of adequate medical care and prosecutors refusing to disclose evidence against him to his defence lawyers.

Pu Zhiqiang has represented individuals in many ‘sensitive’ human rights cases, including those linked with the ‘New Citizens’ Movement’, a loose network of activists who aim to promote government transparency and expose corruption.