A court in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang on Friday handed down jail terms of just over a decade each to two veteran members of a banned opposition party after finding them guilty of subversion, their relatives and lawyers said.
China Democracy Party (CDP) activist Lu Gengsong, 60, was jailed for 11 years by the Intermediate People’s Court in Zhejiang’s provincial capital Hangzhou after pleading not guilty to charges of “incitement to subvert state power.”
Fellow CDP member Chen Shuqing, 52, was handed a sentence of 10 years and six months on the same charges.
“It’s just finished,” Chen’s wife, who gave only a surname Zhang, told RFA. “Chen Shuqing was jailed for 10 years and six months, with deprivation of political rights for four years.”
“Chen Shuqing plans to appeal,” she said.
She said the defendants weren’t permitted to speak during the sentencing hearing, adding, “I think that’s unfair.”
Chen’s lawyer Fu Yonggang confirmed the sentence. “They didn’t wait for any statements. They just took Chen Shuqing away when they had read out the sentence,” Fu said.
“Chen has said all along that he doesn’t care how long his sentence is. He’ll continue to appeal for as long as they find him guilty.”
Lu Gengsong’s daughter, who declined to be named, said he may also appeal, a process which is largely symbolic in China’s judicial system.
“My father is extremely unhappy about this, and he will be talking to his lawyer about whether or not to appeal,” she said.
Lu’s wife Wang Xue’e said the sentencing was the first time she has seen her husband since the trial.
“I couldn’t have imagined [such a long sentence],” Wang said. “He’s not guilty of any crime.”
“An 11-year sentence is far too harsh.”
‘Hard to understand’
Lu and Chen were detained within a few weeks of each other in September and October 2014. At their trial in September 2015, prosecutors cited articles published by the activists overseas, as well as their attendance at a meeting with other activists and a condolence event.
Lu’s wife said the move was likely a form of retaliation for his advocacy work on behalf of ordinary people with grievances against the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Chen’s lawyer Fu Yonggang said the defense had argued throughout that the writing of articles and online posts doesn’t constitute incitement to subversion.
“They are just labeling it as ‘incitement to subvert state power,'” he said. “It’s very hard to understand; I think it’s because of some ideas in President Xi Jinping’s speeches, which turn into dogma and from dogma into policy.”
A history graduate from eastern China’s Zhejiang University, Lu taught at a police college before being expelled in 1993 because of his pro-democracy activities.
Since then, he has published several books, and is best known for A History of Chinese Communist Party Corrupt Officials, published in Hong Kong in 2000.
Chen, a veteran of the 1989 pro-democracy protests, had previously served a four-year jail term on the same subversion charge, from which he was released in September 2010.
‘Felt like weeping’
Fellow CDP activist Zou Wei, who evaded surveillance from state security police in a bid to attend the sentencing, was detained by police on his arrival at the court buildings, he told RFA.
He said he was saddened by the news of Lu and Geng’s sentences.
“I felt very heavyhearted when I heard the news,” Zou said. “I am ashamed of my country for doing something like that.”
“But I have a lot of respect and admiration for Lu and Chen. I know that they will appeal, even though this will do little to improve the persecution faced by members of the CDP.”
A small group of supporters gathered at the back gate of the court buildings to show support, while others were prevented from leaving home by police.
“They wouldn’t let us in the front door, so we stood outside the back gate for a while,” a supporter surnamed Liang told RFA. “There are police cars on both sides of the road, with 20 or 30 officers standing guard even around the back.”
“If we take out our cell phones to take photos, they snatch them away from us.”
He added: “I felt like weeping when I heard about the sentences; they are really barbaric.”
Others sentenced earlier
Chinese political activists first tried to set up the CDP by applying for an official permit from the Hangzhou civil affairs bureau in December 1998, but the attempt ended with the sentencing of three of the group’s founders to lengthy jail terms.
Zhejiang dissident Wang Youcai, Wuhan-based Qin Yongmin, and Beijing-based Xu Wenli were sentenced, respectively, to 11, 12, and 13 years in prison on charges of “instigation to subvert state power.”
Also sentenced were Sichuan-based Liu Xianbin, Beijing-based Zha Jianguo, and Hangzhou-based Zhu Yufu, Chen Shuqing, and Wu Yilong, all since released, though Liu has been redetained.
Xu Wenli and Wang Youcai were exiled to the United States on “medical parole” on Dec. 24, 2002, and March 4, 2004, respectively.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.