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Pu Zhiqiang: China rights lawyer gets suspended jail sentence

Prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang has been released from detention after receiving a suspended jail sentence.

Mr Pu was found guilty by a Beijing court earlier on Tuesday for “inciting ethnic hatred” and “picking quarrels” in social media posts.

The court sentenced him to three years in prison but also said the sentence would be suspended.

He is the latest to be tried in a crackdown on dissidents in China.

Mr Pu was released from Beijing’s Number One Detention Centre on Tuesday afternoon, where he had been held for 19 months.

He is now under “residential surveillance”, and has 10 days to decide whether to appeal against his conviction and sentence, his lawyer says.

Experts say the suspended sentence means Mr Pu can avoid serving time in jail – but could be monitored during the suspension period. The guilty verdict means he can no longer practise law.


A female activist was dragged away by plainclothes police

Mr Pu could have faced a maximum sentence of eight years in prison.

State news agency Xinhua said that during his sentencing Mr Pu had “acknowledged the reality of his crimes”, apologised, and accepted his sentence. However, his lawyers said he had not pleaded guilty.

Rights group Amnesty International said that the sentence was “a deliberate attempt by the Chinese authorities to shackle a champion of freedom of expression”.

However, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Mr Pu’s case had been handled “in accordance with the law” and that “foreign governments should respect China’s judicial sovereignty”.


Mr Pu was swiftly driven away from the detention centre on Tuesday afternoon. Photo provided to BBC

Mr Pu has been in detention since May 2014, after he posted several messages on microblogging platform Weibo that were critical of the government.

He had questioned the “excessively violent” crackdown on Uighurs in the restive Xinjiang region, alleged the Chinese Communist Party was an untruthful party, and mocked government rhetoric over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Supporters say his arrest was politically motivated, as he is known for representing dissidents in sensitive human rights cases.

Pu Zhiqiang represented artist Ai Weiwei in a tax evasion case that critics complained was politically motivated. He also campaigned for the eventual abolition of the labour camp system, under which suspects could be detained for years without trial.


Ai Weiwei (left) has condemned the sentence. AFP


Prior to the sentencing, a small group of activists and foreign journalists gathered in front of the court. There were brief scuffles with the police, in a repeat of scenes seen last week during Mr Pu’s one-day trial.

A BBC team witnessed supporters and journalists being dragged away by dozens of plainclothes policemen. The BBC team was later asked to leave.

Amnesty said at least 12 activists were detained on Tuesday.

Human rights activist Hu Jia told the BBC that China’s authorities had “attacked a leading human rights lawyer… as a warning to other rights lawyers [in China].”

International interest in his case could have contributed to his jail sentence being suspended, Mr Hu said, but added that Mr Pu was still at risk of being persecuted by the authorities.

At the scene: Stephen Evans, BBC News, Beijing

Pu Zhiqiang is something of a celebrity as a lawyer. He’s a big, bear-like man with a baritone voice who has defended a range of causes, especially those involving freedom of speech and detention in labour camps.

He mixes popular street speech with allusions to classical literature in a powerful rhetorical fashion. “Feisty” is an adjective often used to describe him.

He has also been a thorn in the side of the authorities since his imprisonment in 1989 as a student pro-democracy protester.

His defenders say his current treatment is not because of the content of the seven posts on social media cited by the authorities. Rather, they say, it is to send a warning to dissidents – and the lawyers of dissidents.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-35157525

Michael Mitchell: Chinese Law on Trial

John SudworthInfluential civil rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang is finally set to face trial this coming Monday in Beijing for his politically controversial online comments.

“[But] he said he didn’t think he had incited ethnic hatred or provoked trouble”.

Friends and supporters of Pu Zhiqiang attempted to hold up placards defending him, and chanted “Pu Zhiqiang is innocent”, before being set upon by security forces in plain clothes.

Police forcefully barred observers – including diplomats, journalists and supporters – from entering the courtroom. A year after his detention, Chinese authorities began a major crackdown that led to the arrest of at least 230 lawyers across the country, some of whom are still missing.

“Lawyers and civil society leaders such as Mr. Pu should not be subject to continuing repression, but should be allowed to contribute to the building of a prosperous and stable China”.

A spokesperson for the United States Embassy in Beijing reportedly expressed “great concern” over the incident, while the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China condemned “the harassment of and violence against” reporters covering the trial.

China routinely prosecutes activists and dissidents under a law forbidding “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and dismisses any criticism of its rights record. Dan Biers, an official at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, was jostled down the street by police as he tried to read out a statement denouncing the lawyer’s treatment.

Police tried to prevent Biers from reading out a statement near the courthouse, pushing him and foreign reporters out of the way.

“Pu’s trial is extremely important – he’s the ultimate canary in the coal mine”, Maya Wang, a China researcher for Human Rights Watch said. We need freedom of speech! One accused the Communist Party of “secrecy, cheating, passing the buck, delay” and another criticised its policies towards the troubled Muslim, Uighur-minority province of Xinjiang. On WeChat, a popular messaging service similar to Facebook, some users shared posts in support of the lawyer, while others switched their profile pictures to an image of Pu.

In a trial that lasted less than four hours, another defence lawyer, Si Weijiang, said Beijing’s Number Two Intermediate People’s Court considered the evidence – seven posts Pu made on a microblog between 2011 and 2014.

Pu took up the law after joining the pro-democracy demonstrations on Tiananmen Square in 1989, which were violently broken up by the army. He said Pu was not asked whether he admitted to his guilt during the trial. Pu also mocked Mao Xinyu, who is Mao Zedong’s grandson.

The charges against Pu Zhiqiang are based on seven of his 20,000 messages on the microblogging site Weibo.

Also on Monday, a Beijing court has recommended a suspended death sentence for the wife of disgraced Politburo member Bo Xilai be commuted to life in prison, after she showed repentance and committed no further crime, Chinese media said on Monday.

Source: http://financialspots.com/2015/12/21/chinese-law-on-trial/

China: Trial of lawyer Pu Zhiqiang an act of political persecution

11 December 2015, 19:16 UTC

  •          Delayed trial of renowned human rights lawyer due to start on Monday
  •          Amnesty International’s human rights experts on China available for interview

The Chinese authorities must end their persecution of prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, Amnesty International said, ahead of his trial which is set to begin on Monday in Beijing.
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