“Olympics Prisoner” Yang Chunlin Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

Comments Off on “Olympics Prisoner” Yang Chunlin Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

“Olympics Prisoner” Yang Chunlin Sentenced to Five Years in Prison
CHRD calls for the activist’s unconditional and immediate release

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, March 24, 2008)- Human rights defender, Yang Chunlin (杨春林), was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and two years’ deprivation of political rights for “inciting subversion of state power.” Yang’s conviction was related to his collecting more than 10,000 signatures endorsing the open letter, “We Want Human Rights, not the Olympics”. Yang was sentenced on the same day the Olympic flame was lit in Olympia, Greece.

Court police hit Yang several times with electric batons when he attempted to speak with his family who attended the sentencing hearing. This incident occurred at the end of the 20-minute hearing in Jiamusi City Intermediate People’s Court, Heilongjiang Province.

Yang insisted that he was innocent. He refused to recognize the legitimacy of the court and said he would not appeal.

“This is perhaps a gesture of defiance by the Chinese government, facing criticism of its human rights abuses because of the Olympics. The government gave Yang a particularly heavy sentence to say that it is definitely not going to compromise on its crackdown on human rights before the Olympic Games,” said one of Yang’s lawyers.

CHRD calls for Yang’s immediate and unconditional release. By collecting signatures to endorse a petition seeking improvement in China’s human rights situation prior to the Olympics, Yang was peacefully exercising his freedom of expression, which should not be criminalized. The right to freedom of expression is guaranteed in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which China has signed (but not yet ratified). This right is also enshrined in Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution.

CHRD condemns the public humiliation of Yang by law enforcement officials at his trial on February 19 and the beating at the sentencing hearing today. Given this record, there is reason to fear that he could be subjected to further torture and degrading treatment during his imprisonment.

CHRD calls on the UN Committee Against Torture and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to investigate these allegations and, if it finds evidence that Yang has been tortured, to demand that the Chinese government end the torture and ill-treatment of Yang and bring those who have committed torture to justice. China signed and ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) in 1988.

CHRD asks the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders to take Urgent Action on behalf of Yang Chunlin.

CHRD calls on world leaders to not attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. By treating the Beijing Olympics as “merely a sport event,” President Bush is either looking away from China’s political handling of the Olympics or willingly lending his political clout to China’s authoritarian repression on political dissent. Leaders of democratic nations may not wish to be complicit in China’s systematic violations of human rights and its political persecution of human rights activists because of the Olympics.

Yang, 52, is a laid-off worker from Jiamusi City, Heilongjiang Province. He was detained four times in 2006 for helping farmers seeking compensation for lost land and participating in the hunger strike called by the Beijing lawyer, Gao Zhisheng.

Yang was detained on July 6, 2007, and on August 13 formally arrested on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power” because he collected signatures to endorse the open letter, “We Want Human Rights, not the Olympics”. The letter was reportedly signed by more than 10,000 people, mostly Heilongjiang farmers who have been fighting forced eviction and are sympathetic with other victims of land loss in cities where officials have used the Olympics as a pretext to grab land and housing without adequate compensation.

While in detention, Yang is said to have been tortured and coerced to confess. The authorities have denied Yang access to his family and restricted his access to legal counsel. Yang has only been allowed two meetings with his lawyers so far.

Yang was tried on February 19. During the trial, Yang was subjected to degrading and inhumane treatment, including being hooded, shackled and placed in leg irons, and was allegedly tortured in detention

For more information, please see:
“Olympics Detainee” Yang Chunlin Ill-treated during Trial (February 21)
Activist Yang Chunlin Tried for Demanding Human Rights Prior to the Olympics (February 19)
Detained Heilongjiang Activist, Yang Chunlin, Allegedly Tortured and Ill-treated (October 9, 2007)
Heilongjiang activist, Yang Chunlin, denied access to lawyer, at risk of torture and ill-treatment (September 25, 2007)
Heilongjiang Activist Yang Chunlin Arrested for Organizing Open-Letter Campaign: “We Want Human Rights, not the Olympics” (August 31, 2007)

For more information about “inciting subversion of state power”, please see:
“Inciting Subversion of State Power”: A Legal Tool for Prosecuting Free Speech in China

  • Back to Top