27 Affiliated With Former Official Given Prison Terms in Southern China

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Originally published by New York Times on February 12, 2015

BEIJING — A court in southern China has sentenced to prison 27 family members and supporters of a former official, now dead, who had sought to expose local corruption, a lawyer for one of them said Thursday.

The large number of people sentenced in a single trial for what their advocates have said were political rather than criminal activities was unusual. All were members of the Miao ethnic group, more commonly known in the West as the Hmong.

The former official, Long Baorong, of Fenghuang County in Hunan Province, was detained by Communist Party investigators in 2010 after he raised questions about the local government. In 2011, a court sentenced him to four or five years in prison for fraud and embezzlement, but he was unexpectedly released in 2012. He died shortly afterward, according to the lawyer, Ma Gangquan.

On Monday, Mr. Long’s son-in-law, Long Xianyuan, was sentenced to 15 years in prison at the trial in Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture. Long Xianyuan’s brother, Long Xianjiang, was sentenced to 25 years after they were convicted of criminal charges that included taking part in organized crime, organizing crowds for fighting and illegally carrying firearms. A nephew of the brothers, Peng Bo, received a sentence of 24 years, Mr. Ma, who represented Long Xianyuan, said by telephone.

Other defendants were convicted of taking part in organized crime and sentenced to 16 months or longer.

Details of the sentences appeared Monday in Legal Daily, an official newspaper. The newspaper emphasized that the defendants had been involved in organized crime, and it did not mention political motivations for the arrests and trial.

A report by China Human Rights Defenders, an advocacy group based outside China, said that the Long brothers and about 50 others were detained in August 2012, a month after Long Baorong, the former official who had held the post of deputy county executive, died.

Mr. Long incurred the wrath of local officials after he published an online article in July 2010 about official corruption, called “58 Whys?” The Long brothers led more than 1,000 people in protest when the trial of Long Baorong began. After he died, a similar number of people, mostly Miao, showed up at his funeral. Local officials were incensed by the crowds and had the police detain the Long brothers and about 50 others, Mr. Ma, the lawyer, said.

Mr. Ma said the Long brothers and many others were tortured by the police and forced to make false confessions. He said Long Xianjiang’s teeth were knocked out. Long Xianyuan had his hands tied behind his back and was hung that way for several hours until he lost consciousness, Mr. Ma said. He added that another of those arrested, Wu Zhongwei, had his legs crippled.

A woman who answered a telephone call to the Intermediate People’s Court of Xiangxi Autonomous Prefecture said she did not know anything about the case. Calls made to other court telephone numbers went unanswered.

When the trial began last March, Mr. Ma and another lawyer requested that the court not admit evidence obtained through the alleged torture, but the court refused to comply, Mr. Ma said.

Correction: February 14, 2015
An earlier version of this article gave an incorrect name for one of the people who were arrested. He is Wu Zhongwei, not Wu Zhongxiong.

Kiki Zhao contributed research.

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