Sichuan Rights Defenders Convicted on Trumped-up “Fraud” ChargesComments Off on Sichuan Rights Defenders Convicted on Trumped-up “Fraud” Charges
(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, August 20, 2010)- This afternoon, the Ziliujing District People’s Court in Zigong City, Sichuan Province convicted human rights defenders Liu Zhengyou (刘正有), Hu Yulan (胡玉兰), Ma Xingquan (马兴权), and Feng Guiqin (冯桂琴) of “fraud.” All four were involved in a group known to local residents as a “non-governmental letters and visits office,” dedicated to defending the rights of villagers and petitioners in Sichuan Province. However, only Liu remains in detention following the verdict. CHRD believes that the charge of “fraud” is groundless and that local officials are persecuting the activists, and particularly Liu, for their years of human rights activism.
“By convicting these land and housing rights activists on trumped-up charges, and singling out Liu Zhengyou for harsher punishment, the government is sending an unequivocal message of intimidation to other activists,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s International Director.
Liu, Ma, and Feng were all sentenced to two years in prison, and Hu sentenced to one year and six months with a two-year reprieve. Ma will serve his sentence outside of prison due to illness, while Feng has been released on medical parole. Liu, who is 58 years old, is reportedly in very poor health as a result of his months in detention; during a meeting in June with his lawyer Zheng Jianwei (郑建伟), Liu appeared “extremely weak” and had to be supported by two policemen. He currently suffers from high blood pressure, and appeared very thin and frail in court.
Over 100 supporters gathered to await the verdict outside the courthouse on the afternoon of August 20, and a large number of uniformed and plainclothes police were on hand to control the crowd. Of Liu’s family and supporters, only Liu Jing (刘静), his daughter, was allowed to attend the sentencing. One activist who applied for permission to attend, Luo Shimo (罗世模), was taken away by police and held in a nearby teahouse during the proceedings.
Liu was originally detained on November 11, 2009, and if he serves his full sentence, will be released on November 10, 2011.
CHRD condemns the imprisonment of Liu Zhengyou and demands his immediate release. We believe that Liu is being imprisoned solely for exercising his rights to freedom of expression, association and to defend the human rights of others. His detention is arbitrary, as defined by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and violates international human rights standards contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Liu Zhengyou is a longtime activist and founder of a local rights-defense group responsible for providing assistance to petitioners and documenting local rights abuses. A farmer, construction worker and owner of a rural machine tool factory, Liu got his start as a land rights activist in 1993 when Zigong City officials began seizing farmland in and around the village where he was living. He was designated a leader by fellow farmers, and for the next decade Liu led the farmers in pursuing every available avenue of potential redress—filing lawsuits and appeals, petitioning, and writing letters to officials—without success. Liu has been detained on a number of occasions over the years for his activism, and in 2006 was prevented from leaving the country to attend a human rights training session in Geneva, Switzerland on the grounds that he was under “criminal investigation” for his role in leading a protest by villagers in Shandong Province who had lost their land to developers without proper compensation.
Liu’s writings and essays appeared frequently on news websites, such as Boxun (www.boxun.com), Canyu (www.canyu.org), and CHRD’s website. In 2006, Liu was one of seven Chinese housing rights activists to jointly receive the Housing Rights Defender Award, presented by the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE).
Liu was detained on suspicion of “fraud” on November 11, 2009, and formally arrested on December 7, 2009. After an illegally prolonged detention, during which the procuratorate twice sent Liu’s case back to the public security bureau for supplementary investigation, Liu and his co-defendants were tried on July 6. According to Liu’s lawyer, Zheng Jianwei (郑建伟), the trial was marred by irregularities. For example, Zhang Kai (张凯), lawyer for one of Liu’s co-defendants, was ignored by the judge after requesting on multiple occasions that court officials and prosecutors speak Mandarin, and the court refused to provide Zhang with an interpreter to help him understand the local dialect. Furthermore, the defense was not allowed to cross-examine a number of witnesses during the hearing, and the prosecutors presented evidence during the hearing which had not previously been submitted to the court.
For More Information:
“Land Rights Activist Liu Zhengyou Criminally Detained on Suspicion of ‘Fraud,’” November 12, 2009, https://www.nchrd.org/2009/11/12/land-rights-activist-liu-zhengyou-criminally-detained-on-suspicion-of-fraud/
Renee Xia, International Director (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 6937 or +1 301 547 9286
David Smalls, Researcher (English), +1 347 448 5285