Friday 21 September 2018

Activist given eight-year sentence in China for mocking officials

A Chinese court sentenced prominent activist Wu Gan to eight years in prison for subversion. (AP Photo)
A Chinese court sentenced prominent activist Wu Gan to eight years in prison for subversion. (AP Photo)

A prominent activist who calls himself the Ultra Vulgar Butcher for mocking and pressuring Chinese officials has been given an eight-year prison sentence for subversion.

The Tianjin Number 2 Intermediate People's Court on Tuesday handed down the sentence after finding activist Wu Gan guilty of subverting state power.

Wu will appeal the sentence, his lawyer Ge Yongxi told The Associated Press.

Wu had become known among rights advocates and lawyers for his attention-grabbing campaigns.

In one, he posed for online portraits brandishing knives that he said he would use to "slaughter the pigs" among local officials who had done wrong.

In court on Tuesday, Wu struck an irreverent note in his remarks following the sentence, saying he was "grateful to the party for granting me this lofty honour," according to Ge, who was in court.

"I will remain true to our original aspiration, roll up my sleeves and make an extra effort," Wu said, playing on well-known phrases Chinese President Xi Jinping often uses to exhort Communist Party officials to improve their work.

Wu was among the first activists and lawyers caught up in an intense crackdown by authorities that began in 2015. His secretive one-day trial was held in August after a detention of more than two years.

Activists like Wu focused on individual cases instead of challenging Communist Party policy at the national level, making them a greater headache for local officials than for Beijing.

"With extraordinary courage and disdainful words, Wu Gan set the tone for this so-called 'trial' against him," said his friend and fellow activist Wu Yuren.

"It will inspire more and more people to stomp on this government that seems powerful yet doesn't have the authority of the people."

The court said on Tuesday in an online statement that Wu Gan had made many remarks online that "attacked state power."

It accused him of hyping cases that "discredited state organs" by organising illegal public gatherings, causing trouble, and making abusive comments online about others. It said such actions were part of a series of criminal activities seeking to "overthrow state power and the socialist system".

Wu had also worked as an administrative assistant at the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, which had worked on sensitive cases and became the focus of the crackdown that began in July 2015.

Hundreds of lawyers, activists and others were detained in a coordinated nationwide sweep that sent a chill through China's activist community. Many were later released.

Vaguely defined subversion charges are frequently levelled against human rights activists and perceived political foes of the ruling Communist Party.

Wu was detained in May 2015, after travelling to the southeastern city of Nanchang to put pressure on a judge.

Defence lawyers had been denied access to files in a case in which four men were serving prison time for a double murder despite a later confession from a fifth man.

Wu had said on social media that he planned to hold a mock funeral for the judge and was arrested after unfurling a banner that insulted him.

In a separate case on Tuesday, a court in central China convicted the lawyer Xie Yang for inciting subversion of state power but exempted him from criminal penalties after he admitted to the charges.

The German Embassy said in a statement it was disappointed with Wu's harsh sentence and Xie's conviction. "In both cases there have been serious concerns about violations of due process of law including restrictions on the access to independent legal counsel," it said.

The crackdown has drawn international scrutiny, with many Western governments criticising it.

AP

Press Association

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