China sentences immigrants’ rights activist to jail

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Originally published by Business Standard on December 2, 2014

Beijing, Dec 2 (IANS/EFE) Immigrant’s rights activist Zhao Fengshin has been sentenced to four years in prison for allegedly encouraging the use of violence in letters that were posted online, according to media reports Monday.

According to Boxun magazine, the sentence was passed Friday by a court in Hunan province and includes the loss of Zhao’s political rights for three years.

The activist’s trial had been adjourned since June after one of Zhao’s lawyers alleged procedural irregularities.

The judges based their verdict on two letters published online under Zhao’s name, including one addressed to East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which claimed responsibility for the Tiananmen Square terror attack of October 2013 in which five people were killed.

In the letter, Zhao allegedly urged the group to focus their attack on Communist Party members and other corrupt officials, instead of targeting innocent citizens, said the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) organisation.

Another letter was published in form of a poem titled “Northern Expedition: A Call to Arms”, in which Zhao urged citizens to defend democracy by defeating the “kleptocratic government”.

According to the CHRD , Zhao’s attorney stressed his doubts over the true authorship of the letters at the preliminary hearing in June.

Neither the judges nor the attorney general’s office asked for evidence of the letters’ authorship, said the organisation.

Among dissidents and human rights defenders, Zhao’s case has become controversial due to its alleged incitation of violence.

Zhao became famous for supporting immigrants’ rights in in 2009, when he organised a peasants’ group seeking to form a national association and a project for young immigrant workers to receive night classes and training in Beijing.

His efforts, along with the website created for giving information about the rights of peasants and rural immigrants, were much praised by the state press.

His case “has joined the list of trials carried out against activists and dissidents by the communist regime to silence the voices using their right to freedom of expression,” according to human rights organisations.

Last Friday, a Chinese court sentenced Guo Feixiong to jail for defending press freedom, just a week after veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu was put on trail for revealing state secrets when she also identified corrupt practices in the Communist Party upper echelons.


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