A Chinese citizen journalist who meticulously recorded details of public protests and other 'mass incidents' was jailed for four years on Thursday by a court in the southwestern province of Yunnan on public order charges.
Lu Yuyu, who recently refused food and water in protest at alleged mistreatment in a police-run detention center, was handed the sentence by the Dali People's Court following his June 23 trial on charges of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," in connection with his work publicizing protests in China.
Lu's defense attorney Xiao Yunyang said the sentence was "unreasonable."
"We have already appealed this for him," Xiao told RFA. "This should have been a not guilty case, but the prosecution recommended a sentence of between three and five years, so the court gave him four years."
Asked if the court's judgment contained any reasons for the heavy sentence, Xiao said: "No, it didn't. They wouldn't write that."
A friend of Lu's who asked to remain anonymous said the case had been conducted in a very low-key manner, and that he had been unable to find out when the sentencing would take place.
"I got to Dali [on Wednesday], but I wasn't able to find out [from the authorities] when the hearing was," the friend said. "I learned from somebody else that the he had already been sentenced."
"I think the authorities told the lawyer not to speak to anyone about the timing of the hearing, otherwise I'm pretty sure we would have heard about it ... there was no information about it whatsoever," the friend said.
He said Lu had continued to maintain his innocence throughout.
While China's courts almost always convict defendants, they will sometimes release first-time political prisoners who agree to "admit their crimes" on suspended sentences, which often results in a form of house arrest under police surveillance.
"He isn't afraid," the friend said. "If he was, he would have pled guilty, because judging from previous cases, especially the [crackdown on] lawyers, they would have given him a suspended sentence in return for a guilty plea and put him out on bail."
"He has maintained his attitude all the way, to the extent of saying that he plans to continue his media work when he gets out of jail," he said.
'Not the News'
Lu, who founded the blog "Not the News," was detained alongside his girlfriend Li Tingyu on suspicion of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble" by police in Yunnan's mountain resort of Dali in June 2016.
Li Tingyu was tried in secret by the Dali People's Court on April 20, according to her lawyer Ge Yongxi. There has been no announcement regarding her fate since, although Ge has said he hopes she may be handed a suspended jail term in return for a "confession."
A former migrant worker, Lu called his online operation "Not the News," in an ironic nod to the widespread censorship of "sensitive" stories of mass protests by the ruling Chinese Communist Party and the media outlets under its control.
In 2016, Lu compiled details of more than 30,000 "mass incidents" not widely reported in China.
Meanwhile, in the southern city of Shenzhen, online rights activist Wu Bin was taken away from the home of his ex-wife in handcuffs for "questioning" by state security police as the couple were preparing to remarry, she told RFA.
Huang Meijuan said six or seven state security police had burst into her bedroom after Wu locked himself in there, refusing to leave the apartment with them.
"There were no documents for a mandatory summons, and yet six or seven state security police in plain clothes broke down the bedroom door ... I heard Wu Bin shouting in there," she said.
"When he came out, he was handcuffed, his clothes torn across his chest and he had red marks all across his chest where they had used violent means," Huang said.
She said police had refused to give her information when she went to inquire after him, saying she has no relationship to Wu. Huang said Wu had arrived in Shenzhen on July 3 ahead of the couple's planned remarriage.
An employee who answered the phone at the Buji district police station in Shenzhen on Wednesday declined to confirm Wu's whereabouts.
"We can't accept inquiries over the telephone," the employee said.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.