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China: Lawyer Ding Jiaxi tortured in arbitrary detention

23 January 2024


Ding Jiaxi is a Chinese lawyer and defender of human rights and democracy. As a member of the “New Citizens Movement”, Mr Jiaxi had taken part in an informal meeting with civil rights activists and lawyers on the state of civil society in China. He was arrested in 2019 by the Chinese authorities and subsequently placed in incommunicado detention.

The Chinese authorities took a long time to decide whether or not to prosecute Ding Jiaxi. It was not until August 2021 that the lawyer was informed that charges had been brought against him.

Mr Jiaxi was placed “under house arrest at a designated location” for almost two years after his arrest. In January 2021, he was allowed to contact his lawyers by videoconference, after being transferred to a detention centre in Linshu.

During interviews with his lawyers, Ding Jiaxi revealed that he had been tortured during his incommunicado detention.  He reported that he had been subjected to “sleep deprivation and intensive interrogation for 73 days”.[1] He was also allegedly interrogated using a “tiger chair”, a “metal seat that makes it possible to immobilise the detainee’s feet and hands and to hug his chest, making it very difficult to breathe”.[2]

Accused of “subversion of State power”, Ding Jiaxi was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment and “deprivation of political rights” for 3 years in April 2023.


The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest of Ding Jiaxi, who bravely practises his profession in the name of human rights.

The Observatory firmly denounces the acts of torture to which Ding Jiaxi was subjected while in detention.

The Observatory urges the Chinese authorities to carry out an independent investigation into the allegations of torture suffered by Mr Jiaxi.

The Observatory calls on the Chinese government to comply with the principles set out in the 1987 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which the People’s Republic of China is a party.

The Observatory recalls that, in respect of the basic principles of the United Nations relating to the role of the Bar, in particular principles 16, 17, 23 and 27:

Principle 16: “Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference;”

Principle 17: “Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.”

Principle 23: Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization. In exercising these rights, lawyers shall always conduct themselves in accordance with the law and the recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession.”

Principle 27: Charges or complaints made against lawyers in their professional capacity shall be processed expeditiously and fairly under appropriate procedures. Lawyers shall have the right to a fair hearing, including the right to be assisted by a lawyer of their choice.”





[1] ACAT France, « Tortured while held incommunicado, Ding Jiaxi provides a brave and rare testimony », 24 February 2021, available online.

[2] Ibid.