Once a high-flying corporate attorney, Ding Jiaxi awoke to a far more perilous vocation: human rights law in China.
A Reuters Special Report
In this detailed account of China’s revolutionary rights lawyers on the vanguard of moving the country towards democratic change and civil society, one case at a time, investigative journalist and geopolitical analyst, David Lague, zeroes in on the story of one such legal warrior.
Ding Jiaxi, once a high-flying corporate attorney, discovered all was not as he had been led to believe in his home country when a visit to America opened the door to access to information. Heeding the call of the awakening this access gave rise to, Ding returned home to practice a far more perilous vocation: human rights law.
At one time, hundreds of lawyer activists like Ding took on clients that included dissidents, victims of food contamination and persecuted Christians, as well as organized discussions and seminars on China’s constitution and law reform. Dangerous ground that fell out from under when President Xi Jinping’s multiyear clampdown on rights lawyers and legal scholars escalated in 2015. The result: the “709” crackdown, a reference to July 9 of that year, when security forces began arresting and harassing rights lawyers across the country. Ding, one of the highest-profile targets of the ruling Communist Party, was among those swept away.
Since then, Ding has become familiar with incarceration, interrogation and torture. Yet, Ding, like fellow legendary rights lawyer, Xu Zhiyong [both pictured below] remain determined they will see democratic change in their lifetimes.
Ding’s wife, Sophie Luo Shengchun, and their two daughters, live in America where they fled to safety in 2013 after Ding was taken from the family home by half a dozen of China’s feared Guobao agents. Now suffering the early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, Luo wants her husband to give up the fight and return to her.
Ding Jiaxi (right) and Xu Zhiyong (left) pictured together in the city of Guangzhou before their arrests in late 2019 and early 2020, respectively. Handout via REUTERS