Sunday, January 22, 2012

China sentences activist to 10 years over writings

By GILLIAN WONG | Associated Press – Jan. 18, 2012

BEIJING — A court has sentenced a democracy activist in central China
to 10 years' imprisonment for subversion, a family member said Thursday.
It's the third lengthy jail term handed down to a dissident in less than a

Li Tie was sentenced by a court in Wuhan city to 10 years in jail on
Wednesday after being convicted of subversion based on articles that he
had written, said the relative, who did not want to be named due to fear
of official retaliation.

Li said in court he is innocent because the Chinese constitution protects
citizens' freedom of expression, the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights
Defenders group said in a statement. The group said Li was arrested in
September 2010 and his trial was held in April.

Wang Songlian, a researcher with the group, said Li's case is similar to
those of Chen Wei and Chen Xi, rights activists who were separately
sentenced late last month to nine and 10 years in prison, respectively,
for posting essays on the Internet that the government deemed subversive.

"They are all activists with a long track record of promoting democracy in
China, who have refused to bend despite severe persecution," Wang said.
"Their sentences are the Chinese government's response to the Arab Spring:
Freedom and democracy are dirty words, and anyone advocating for them will
be punished harshly."

Communist leaders launched a sweeping effort to crush dissent early last
year in response to anonymous online calls urging Chinese to imitate
protests that toppled governments in North Africa and the Middle East.

In Wednesday's case, the Wuhan Intermediate Court refused to allow Li to
be represented by an attorney of his choice and instead appointed a lawyer
to defend him, the relative said.

"From the beginning to the end, it has been all nonsense," said the family
member. "The question of subverting state power does not exist."

Li will appeal the sentence if the family is able to hire a lawyer, the
relative said.

A man at the Wuhan court office who answered the phone hung up as soon as
he heard the caller was from The Associated Press. Subsequent calls rang

According to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, prosecutors said that because
Li wrote articles critical of the government and participated in
discussions on "reactionary" websites, it should be presumed that he would
engage in anti-government actions.

Chinese dissident to stand trial for poem

By Sui-Lee Wee | Reuters – Tue, Jan 17, 2012

BEIJING - Chinese authorities have indicted veteran dissident
Zhu Yufu on subversion charges for writing a poem urging people to gather
to defend their freedoms, his lawyer said on Tuesday, the latest activist
faced with such charges in a tightening clampdown.

The Foreign Ministry, however, stoutly defended China's human rights
record, rejecting an assessment by U.S. ambassador Gary Locke that the
human rights situation was deteriorating.

"Such statements are not true," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin
told a regular briefing. "The Chinese side attaches great importance to
promoting and protecting the fundamental rights and interests of people of
all ethnic groups, including the freedom of expression and of religion."

Locke made the statements at an interview with U.S. talk show host Charlie
Rose on Monday.

"As for some people who have dealt with the law, it's not because their
freedom of expression and freedom of religion have been suppressed," Liu
said. "It's because they have violated Chinese laws and regulations and so
should be punished by the law. It has nothing to do with so-called human

Zhu, 60, from the eastern city of Hangzhou, was arrested last April for
"inciting subversion of state power," a charge often used against critics
of the ruling Communist Party. No trial date has been set, the lawyer, Li
Dunyong, said by telephone.

"The main reason for the indictment was a poem he had written calling for
people to gather. He had written the poem around the same time there was
chaos (in the Middle East)," Li said. "He believes in the freedom of

Li collected the indictment on Monday from a Hangzhou court and met Zhu.
He described him as being "in a good condition."

Calls to the Hangzhou Intermediate Court were unanswered.

The authorities disclosed the decision to prosecute Zhu nearly a year
after he wrote the poem, entitled "It's time."

A verse reads: "It's time, Chinese people!/ The square belongs to
everyone/the feet are yours/it's time to use your feet and take to the
square to make a choice." Zhu's lawyer said the poem had been published on
the Internet.

But Li said that Zhu had nothing to do with online calls for "Jasmine
Revolution" rallies inspired by Middle East uprisings.

Police rounded up dozens of dissidents in response to the calls. The
attempted rallies were tiny, with participants quickly outnumbered by
hundreds of police and security guards.

Li said he would defend Zhu on the basis of freedom of expression, but
believed prospects for victory looked bleak.

"You can't be optimistic about anything in China," he said. "In this
country, he'll be punished harshly."

The Communist Party is preparing for a leadership handover late this year,
when its determination to fend off political challenges to its rule is
likely to intensify.


Chinese courts meted out lengthy sentences to two other dissidents in
December on subversion charges.

Like both dissidents, Zhu has been jailed twice before for pro-democracy
activism -- in 1999 for seven years and in 2007 for two years, according
to the Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

Activist artist Ai Weiwei, whose 81-day detention last year sparked an
international outcry, said he was interrogated for five hours on Sunday
for throwing stones at and making a rude gesture to surveillance cameras
outside his home.

Police told Ai that he had to be questioned because he was suspected of
"damaging public property," Ai said by telephone.

Ai said the stones did not hit the 10 cameras outside his house and he did
not think he would face charges.

"They said to me: 'This is a warning because you have to behave'," Ai
said. "I said: 'I'll behave. I take your warning seriously. But I'm human,
I have to show my attitude. It's just a gesture. You're so powerful, how
can I destroy you?'"

A third dissident, Hu Jia, said he was taken in for questioning on
Tuesday, as has happened several times since police raided his home and
took two computers.

Hu said police investigators asked about his motives for urging citizens
to seek the freedom of detained rights advocates Chen Guangcheng and Gao

"I think they were exploring my views to see what I'm planning to do this
year," he said. "They told my wife I could be regularly questioned. I
think it's a kind of pressure to ensure my silence."

(Additional reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Ken Wills and Ron Popeski)

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