• China intensifies crackdown on anti-government activists.

China intensifies crackdown on anti-government activists. (Photo : Getty Images)

Chinese authorities will be prosecuting prominent human rights activist and lawyer Zhou Shifeng, according to a statement released last Tuesday.

Zhou has been secretly detained since last year. He was rounded up together with other lawyers, legal associates and rights advocates because they were accused of abusing court proceedings. Zhou's legal group was said to organize protests to get international attention.

Like Us on Facebook

There are about 25 individuals in the legal group that are either detained or missing.

Chinese police informed Zhou's family over the weekend that the prosecution will charge the lawyer with "subverting state power." According to Liu Xiaoyuan, Zhou's colleague, he might be imprisoned for a decade.

A researcher for the Chinese Human Rights Watch, Maya Wang, said, "This kind of political crime, reserved for political parties in the past, is now used on a wider range of civil society actors, showing how much space has for activism has shrunk under Xi's reign in just three years."

Zhou is the director of Beijing Fengrui Law Firm and has been under government crackdown since July last year.

Another human rights lawyer, Shang Baojun, said that Zhou's previous legal representatives have been replaced by government-appointed lawyers.

According to Chinese law, the prosecution is still due in two months.

"To be honest, we don't know anything more about his case than you do," Shang said.

Three other lawyers, Hu Shigen, Zhai Yanmin and Gou Hongguo, are facing the same predicament.

Official legal newspaper Legal Daily published commentaries on Zhou's legal battle. The paper said that Zhou has "become the leverage the West uses in its political contest with China."

The government has not released any comment or statement.