Tuesday 19 March 2019

China jails human rights blogger for longest term yet

Xu Xiaoshun, the father of activism blogger Wu Gan. Photo: Reuters
Xu Xiaoshun, the father of activism blogger Wu Gan. Photo: Reuters

Jamie Fulerton Beijing

A human-rights activist nicknamed 'Super Vulgar Butcher' has been jailed in China for eight years for 'subversion' - the harshest sentence given in a crackdown on activists that began in the country in 2015.

Wu Gan, a 44-year-old administrator at a Beijing law firm, campaigns for victims in criminal cases that are viewed as sensitive by the authorities. He was sentenced at the Tianjin Intermediate People's Court.

It is the longest sentence given so far in the '709 crackdown,' a sweep-up of hundreds of activists and lawyers that began two years ago. Mr Wu was accused of attempting to overthrow the ruling communist party.

In court yesterday, Mr 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 his lawyer Ge Yongxi, who was in court.

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

Mr Wu raised awareness of cases involving members of the public caught up in legal cases against officials.

In 2009, he supported a pedicurist charged with killing a government official who attempted to molest her.

He also campaigned for justice for the family of Xu Chunhe, who was killed by a police officer in the northeastern Heilongjiang province in 2015.

Mr Wu claimed that he had been tortured while detained and refused to appear on state media television, which human rights groups say is often used to broadcast forced confessions from suspects.

He said his trial in the government-controlled court was "meaningless".

Amnesty International called the trial, which commenced last August, a "cruel farce", adding that it was "inconceivable that he will receive a fair hearing in what is a politically motivated prosecution."

Mr Wu has remained unrepentant in his refusal to co-operate with the authorities.

The court said the case involved state secrets, meaning that the trial was even more restricted than usual, and state security police held his father, Xu Xiaoshun, in his hometown in the eastern province of Fujian, according to a Twitter account that has issued statements from Mr Xu.

Meanwhile, another lawyer, also charged in the crackdown, Xie Yang, has been found guilty of "subversion". He had represented citizens who had sued local governments.

Mr Xie was told that he would not be jailed after denying that he had been tortured while in custody, despite previously claiming that he had been. Reading from a handwritten script in Changsha, in the southern Hunan province, he thanked the court for its "lenient treatment".

Amnesty International said: "Carrying out unfair trials and politicised sentencing of human rights defenders at the very time when diplomats, journalists, international observers and the general public are less likely to be able to respond reeks of a cynical political calculation." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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