Chi­nese rights ac­tivist jailed for six years

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

HONG KONG: A prom­i­nent Chi­nese rights ac­tivist, Guo Feix­iong, was sen­tenced to six years im­pris­on­ment yes­ter­day by a court in southern China, amid a con­tin­u­ing crack­down on hu­man rights ad­vo­cates across the coun­try, his lawyer said yes­ter­day. Two other activists, Liu Yuan­dong and Sun Desh­eng, were sen­tenced to three years and two-and-a-half years re­spec­tively, ac­cord­ing to Guo’s lawyer, Zhang Lei. Guo and Sun had been ac­cused of “gath­er­ing crowds to dis­turb so­cial or­der” dur­ing a nearly week­long peace­ful demonstration out­side the gates of a news­pa­per, the Southern Weekly, in Jan­uary 2013. The protest called on au­thor­i­ties to re­spect me­dia free­doms amid a cen­sor­ship row.

“He wasn’t guilty of any­thing at all. This sen­tence is un­ac­cept­able and un­fair,” Zhang told Reuters by tele­phone af­ter at­tend­ing the court on Fri­day. Guo had pre­vi­ously been jailed for nearly five years for his grass­roots ac­tivism. Guo, 48, whose real name is Yang Maodong, had been de­tained by Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties for over two years be­fore sen­tenc­ing, with his trial stuck in limbo due to de­lays and a boy­cott by his lawyers last year to protest what they called pro­ce­dural vi­o­la­tions.

Chi­nese for­eign min­istry spokesman Hong Lei, asked why Guo had been jailed and if China was wor­ried about in­ter­na­tional re­ac­tion to the case, said: “China is a coun­try with rule of law. A Chi­nese court han­dled this case in ac­cor­dance with the law. Out­siders should re­spect China’s ju­di­cial sovereignty.” Court of­fi­cials did not re­spond to phone calls seek­ing com­ment.

As with pre­vi­ous hear­ings for Guo, and other rights activists in Guangh­zou, the area around the court was blocked off and heav­ily po­liced. Guo had been held in a crowded cell, and barred from ex­er­cis­ing out­side in vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional stan­dards on the treat­ment of pris­on­ers, ac­cord­ing to rights groups. His lawyer said Guo’s health had de­te­ri­o­rated and that two po­lice of­fi­cers had han­dled Guo roughly in court, in­jur­ing his arms.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said Sun Desh­eng had been forced to wear hand­cuffs and leg cuffs for long pe­ri­ods in de­ten­tion. Hu­man rights groups and Western coun­tries have ex­pressed re­peated con­cern about a widen­ing cam­paign by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping to quash dis­sent among aca­demics, jour­nal­ists and so­cial activists. A Chi­nese court on Thurs­day up­held a con­vic­tion against a prom­i­nent jour­nal­ist, Gao Yu, 71, who was ac­cused of leak­ing an in­ter­nal Com­mu­nist Party doc­u­ment to a for­eign web­site but re­duced her seven-year jail term by two years.

Gao has been re­leased on med­i­cal pa­role, her lawyer, Shang Bao­jun, told Reuters. Shang said he did not know where Gao had been re­leased to, though he said that he hoped she could serve the rest of her sen­tence at home. “Beijing’s as­sault on civil so­ci­ety seems to know no bounds as peace­ful activists are in­creas­ingly sub­ject to crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tions,” said So­phie Richard­son, China Di­rec­tor at Hu­man Rights Watch in New York. “The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment should im­me­di­ately drop all charges against Guangzhou activists Guo Feix­iong and Sun Desh­eng and release them.” — Reuters

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