Yet Another Heavy Sentence as Government Escalates Crackdown on Dissent
(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, January 18, 2012) – Today, on the heels of recent harsh sentences of democracy and human rights activists, Chinese authorities sent another dissident, Li Tie (李铁), to prison for 10 years for “subversion of state power.” Li’s sentence, issued by the Wuhan Intermediate People’s Court, comes shortly after Chinese courts in late December handed down a nine-year sentence to Sichuan activist Chen Wei (陈卫) and a 10-year sentence to Guizhou activist Chen Xi (陈西), both for “inciting subversion.”
“Chinese authorities have enjoyed virtual impunity for having heavily punished democracy and human rights activists from Liu Xiaobo to Chen Wei and Chen Xi in the recent past, so nothing seems to be stopping them from doing it again,” said Renee Xia, international director of CHRD. “On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the online call for ‘Jasmine Revolution’ protests, the fear factor–the government’s panic over sparks of the Arab uprising–can’t be any more evident than with the latest string of harsh prison sentences given to activists. Such severe suppression of dissent surely does not address the root causes of increased social unrest.”
CHRD only learned of the sentencing hearing’s date the day before it took place, but had not been able to confirm it. Only after the sentencing hearing was Li’s family able to provide information about the outcome to a lawyer who the family had hired but who authorities refused to accept as Li’s defense lawyer. Authorities appointed a different lawyer to represent Li. It is unclear whether any of Li’s family members were able to attend the hearing, and no other details about the hearing are known at this time.
Li Tie was tried for subversion on April 18, 2011; his mother and daughter were the only supporters of Li permitted to attend the trial. They reported that the “evidence” the procuratorate offered against Li included the following: articles Li wrote criticizing the government, in particular his online article titled “Human Beings’ Heaven Is Human Dignity” (人以尊严为天); his membership in the China Social Democracy Party; his participation in discussions hosted on “reactionary” websites, and his “reactionary” comments made at gatherings with friends. During the trial, the prosecutors argued that Li’s articles and speech demonstrated that he has “anti-government thoughts,” and because he has such thoughts, it should be presumed that he would engage in anti-government actions, and thus he should be found guilty of “subversion” (Criminal Law art. 105 (1)). The procuratorate recommended a 10-year sentence. At the trial, Li’s lawyer argued for his client’s innocence, and in Li’s statement to the court, he said that he was innocent because his words and deeds were in accordance with the Constitution, which gives Chinese citizens the right to freedom of expression.
Li was initially detained on September 15, 2010, and formally arrested on October 22 of the same year. He was tried on April 18, 2011, but the court did not deliver the verdict until eight months later. According to Chinese law, the court has a maximum of two-and-a-half months to issue a verdict after it accepts a case. Li’s family had originally hired human rights lawyer Jin Guanghong (金光鸿) to represent Li, but Jin was never allowed to meet with his client and was subjected to enforced disappearance about 10 days before the trial.
During the past decade, Li has written many online articles promoting democracy, constitutional government, and direct local elections. Li has also organized activities to honor the memory of Lin Zhao (林昭), the well-known Beijing University student jailed in the 1950s and executed by the government in 1968 for her views and writings.
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