Xu Zhiqiang (徐志强)Comments Off on Xu Zhiqiang (徐志强)
Xu Zhiqiang 徐志强
Crime: Inciting subversion of state power
Length of Punishment: Four years
Court: Wuhan City Intermediate People’s Court, Hubei Province
Trial Date: April 21, 2015
Sentencing Date: April 8, 2016
Dates of Detention/Arrest: May 17, 2014 (detained); June 25, 2014 (arrested)
Place of Incarceration: Wuhan City No. 2 Detention Center
Xu Zhiqiang, also known as Sheng Guan (圣观), is an activist-turned-Buddhist monk who was detained during the heightened suppression surrounding the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre. Wuhan police first took Xu and five others into custody in May 2014 after he lectured at the Shangri-la Hotel on Buddhism and his experiences promoting democracy during the 1989 protests. Authorities eventually let go all of those detained except for Xu and a former pharmaceutical worker, Ms. Huang Fangmei (黄芳梅, aka Huang Jingyi, 黄静怡). Xu and Huang were formally arrested a month later on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power.”
In February 2015, the Wuhan City People’s Procuratorate indicted both for “inciting subversion.” Authorities had originally scheduled a trial for Xu and Huang for March 5, 2015, but unexpectedly postponed it by one month. Police often blocked Xu and Huang from meeting their lawyers during their lengthy pre-trial detention. They were not sentenced until over a year after being tried, with Xu receiving a four-year sentence and Huang a two-year sentence. The verdict against the two claimed Xu’s lecture on Buddhist teachings along with his anti-communist views, 1989 experiences, and “hatred” for Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, allegedly constituted “rumor-mongering” and “slander” to “incite subversion” to “overthrow” the socialist system. Huang was convicted as acting as an “accessory” to the crime by helping to organize his lecture at the hotel. Xu Zhiqiang admitted that he did give a lecture and held certain views, but he also argued that this clearly did not constitute a crime and was protected as his right to free speech.
Before his current imprisonment, Xu Zhiqiang had been under police surveillance for years due to his pro-democracy activities and views on human rights. Born on December 29, 1961, Xu founded a pro-democracy federation in Xi’an in 1989, and spent a year in jail as a result. After his release in September 1991, he set up a China-Western Cultural Research Institute the next year, traveled to Shaanxi to study Buddhism, and began to promote workers’ rights. In 2009, he was dismissed as a temple abbot in Hunan Province for paying tribute to Hu Yaobang, the high-ranking Chinese official whose death in April of 1989 became a trigger for thousands of students to rally in Tiananmen Square. In 2010, he met with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala.