[CHRB] What You Need to Know About Last Week’s Prison Sentences & Xi Jinping’s 2014 Crackdowns (4/1-4/12, 2016)Comments Off on [CHRB] What You Need to Know About Last Week’s Prison Sentences & Xi Jinping’s 2014 Crackdowns (4/1-4/12, 2016)
China Human Rights Briefing
April 1-12, 2016
6 Recent Sentences Highlight Ongoing Arbitrary Detentions, Xi Jinping’s Persecution of Dissent
Prison sentences issued by Chinese courts to six human right defenders on April 8 are reminders of ongoing arbitrary detentions and relentless persecution of dissent in China under Xi Jinping’s rule. Courts in Guangdong and Hubei convicted the six activists of “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced them to prison terms of between 18 months and four-and-a-half years. The convictions bring to 16 the total number of human rights defenders (HRDs) sentenced to prison who were first detained in two separate crackdowns in 2014. Two of the six recently sentenced activists were taken into custody around the 25-year anniversary of June Fourth, and the four others were detained for expressing support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
The progression of these cases follow a now-familiar pattern of persecution of detained human rights defenders in China, namely restricted access to legal counsel, unreasonably prolonged detention before being brought before a judge, alleged torture and inhumane treatment, and the use of a serious “endangering national security” crime to persecute HRDs for exercising free speech and peaceful assembly.
With last week’s verdicts, 11 HRDs detained in the clampdown around the 2014 anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, and five seized after they took to the streets to express support for the Hong Kong protests, have been issued prison sentences. Among others still in custody from those two crackdowns, two activists still await verdicts after being tried in 2015, while three others have been indicted but not yet brought to a trial, and another has been formally arrested (but not indicted), according to CHRD’s records.
The two activists (below) sentenced by the Wuhan City Intermediate People’s Court on April 8 had both been detained on May 17, 2014, just before the June Fourth anniversary. They were tried nearly a year later, on April 21, 2015, and thus had to wait almost one more year for the court to finally issue its verdict.
- Xu Zhiqiang(徐志强), 54, was sentenced to four years. Xu, a Buddhist monk who takes the name Sheng Guan (圣观), was detained while giving a lecture on religious texts in Wuhan. Previously, Xu Zhiqiang was jailed for a year after joining the 1989 pro-democracy protests as a student in Xi’an. Over the years, he had remained active in calling for justice for the victims of the Tiananmen Massacre. Authorities are currently holding Xu in Jiang’an District Detention Center.
- Huang Fangmei (黄芳梅), the only woman among the six convicted on April 8, received a two-year sentence. Officials detained Huang while she was attending Xu’s lecture in May 2014. Huang, who had promoted social justice for victims of rights abuses before being taken into custody, is being held at Wuhan City No. 1 Detention Center. She is due to be released next month, given the time served during her prolonged detention.
The four men sentenced on April 8 by the Guangzhou Municipal Intermediate People’s Court have been held at Guangzhou No. 1 Detention Center:
- Wang Mo (王默), 43, originally from Jiangsu Province, was sentenced to four-and-a-half-years for “inciting subversion of state power.” Officials originally took Wang into custody on October 3, 2014, on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” after holding up a banner in a Guangzhou park (along with Xie Wenfei (谢文飞) and another activist) that called for freedom and “true universal suffrage” for Hong Kong citizens. Authorities later modified the charge against him. Officials did not put him on trial until November 19, 2015, more than a year after his detention.
- Xie Fengxia (谢丰夏, aka Xie Wenfei (谢文飞), 39, was also sentenced to four-and-a-half years. Along with Wang, Xie was put on trial on November 19, 2015, for “inciting subversion” after having been initially accused of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.” Originally from Hunan, Xie was allegedly tortured in detention. According to his lawyer,Wu Kuiming (吴魁明), at one point during Xie’s detention, his arms and legs were shackled and fastened together for a total of over 100 hours, during which Xie was given only periodic access to water or the bathroom.
- Zhang Rongping (张荣平, who uses the screen name Zhang Shengyu (张圣雨), 47, was given a four-year sentence. Last September, Zhang, originally from Hunan, reportedly complained to police about being disciplined, and in retaliation was shackled and beaten, kicked in the head, and restricted from using the toilet, brushing his teeth, bathing, and changing his clothes. Like Wang and Xie above, Zhang was first detained for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” on October 3, 2014, but later arrested on the more serious “inciting subversion” charge. He had posted photos of himself online holding a sign in support of the Hong Kong protests. Authorities put Zhang on trial on November 13, 2015.
- Liang Qinhui (梁勤辉), a 32-year-old activist from Hunan Province who uses the screen name “Sharp Knife” (尖刀), was given 18 months in prison. Taken into police custody on February 3, 2015, he was tried on November 13, 2015. In expressing support for the Hong Kong protests, Liang had made comments on QQ (a Facebook-like social media platform) that allegedly “discredited” Xi Jinping and China’s one-party rule.
Like other activists detained in these crackdowns, officials held the six individuals incommunicado after first taking them into custody. The activists were then detained for between nine and 13 months before facing trial. From the point of initial detention, each one was behind bars for between 13 and 23 months more before being sentenced last week.
All together, 16 HRDs detained in the 2014 crackdowns have now been sentenced. In addition to the six above, several others include:
- Veteran journalist Gao Yu (高瑜), who is serving (outside of prison, in Beijing) the longest known sentence for anyone convicted from either crackdown—seven years, handed down in April 2015 for “illegally disseminating state secrets overseas.”
- Guangdong-based lawyer Tang Jingling (唐荆陵), who was sent to prison for five years in January 2016 for “inciting subversion.”
- Housing rights activist Jia Lingmin (贾灵敏), who is serving four years in Henan after she was convicted of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” in November 2015.
- Ye Xiaozheng (叶晓峥, also known by screen name “Humian Yidan” 湖面一丹), who was the first activist sentenced from the crackdown against Hong Kong supporters (and the only one until last week). Ye was given 18 months’ imprisonment in Guangdong in December 2015 for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.”
In addition, two other activists were tried in 2015 after being detained in the suppression around the Hong Kong protests, but have yet to be sentenced:
- Ji Sizun (纪斯尊), a Fujian-based activist and citizen lawyer, faced trial on December 15, 2015, on charges of “gathering a crowd to disrupt order of a public place” and “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.” Ji, who was first detained in November 2014, is being held at Fuzhou No. 1 Detention Center.
- Sun Feng (孙峰), a Shandong-based dissident, was detained in November 2014 and put on trial in June 2015 for “inciting subversion.” According to his lawyer, Sun has been physically injured by being force-fed after conducting short-term hunger strikes in detention. He is being held at Zibo City Detention Center.
The following five HRDs from the crackdowns still languish in excessively prolonged pre-trial detention. The first four have already been indicted.
- Yu Shiwen (于世文), a former student participant in the 1989 pro-democracy protests based in Henan, has endured nearly two years of pretrial detention. He was indicted in February 2015. Yu, charged with “picking quarrels and provoking troubles,” is being held at Zhengzhou City No. 3 Detention Center in Henan.
- Su Changlan (苏昌兰), an activist focused on housing and women’s rights, was indicted in November 2015 on suspicion of “inciting subversion,” over a year after being seized in October 2014. She is being held at Nanhai District Detention Center in Guangdong. In December 2015, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an opinion declaring her detention “arbitrary” by international standards.
- Chen Qitang (陈启棠, aka Tian Li,天理), a Guangdong activist, was seized in October 2014 and formally arrested two months later for “inciting subversion.” Chen was indicted in December 2015, and he is being at Nanhai District Detention Center.
- Pei Guodong (裴国动), an activist from Hebei Province, was seized in November 2015 and indicted the next month, but due to pro-Hong Kong activities that took place in October 2014. He is facing a charge of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles,” allegedly for providing an overseas website with photographs of Chinese activists holding a banner of support for the movement in Hong Kong. Pre-trial proceedings on his case took place on January 26, 2016, in Hebei.
- Xia Lin (夏霖), a human rights lawyer, was formally arrested on suspicion of “fraud” in January 2015. He was initially detained in November 2014, and is being held at Beijing No. 1 Detention Center.
 “Verdicts to Be Announced on April 8 for Zhang Rongping (Zhang Shengyu), Wang Mo, Xie Fengxia (Xie Wenfei), and Liang Qinhui” (张荣平（张圣雨）、王默、谢丰夏（谢文飞）、梁勤辉案都将4月8日开庭宣判), RDN, April 1, 2016; “Wang Mo, Xie Fenxia (Xie Wenfei) Sentenced Today to 4½ Years in Prison” (王默、谢丰夏（谢文飞）今均获刑4年6个月有期徒刑), RDN, April 8, 2016.