China Jails Farmer At Heart of 'Stability' Expenses Revelations

Wang Fengyun gets a two-and-a-half year sentence, which her lawyers and family say is political retaliation for her petitioning over a government land grab.

Wang Fengyun at Duolun County Hospital after her trial on public order charges, March 13, 2017.

A court in the northern Chinese region of Inner Mongolia has handed down a two-and-a-half year jail term to a farmer-turned-petitioner at the heart of a row over a local government surveillance budget in Inner Mongolia's Duolun County.

Wang Fengyun, the petitioner at the heart of a row over 335,000 yuan (U.S. $48,650) in surveillance costs claimed by official in Inner Mongolia's Duolun County for keeping tabs on her, was beaten up by court police shortly after her March 13 trial on public order charges.

Wang, who had made nine trips to Beijing to complain about a land grab by local government, was later re-detained by police at a nearby hospital, where she was in a comatose state following the attack.

"They sentenced my sister to two years and six months' imprisonment," Wang's sister Wang Fenghua told RFA on Wednesday. "The content of the judgement document bore no relation to the content of my sister's trial."

"This is a question of the police, prosecution and judiciary ganging up to retaliate against my sister for her petitioning," Wang Fenghua said. "What's more, they are drawing down huge amounts of government money in the name of stability maintenance."

"We have evidence of all kinds of law-breaking by the government, but the court didn't admit it as evidence," she said.

Wang's lawyer Zhang Jinhua said the now-conscious Wang had attended the sentencing hearing, where she vowed to appeal.

"Of course she'll appeal," Zhang said. "She told me that this was totally unacceptable."

He accused the Duolun County People's Court of improper handling of Wang's trial.

"They admitted none of the evidence that we put forward in her defense, and all of the evidence submitted by the prosecution," he said. "We made a number of arguments in court that refuted that evidence ... including evidence that some of it had been faked."

"But they still wouldn't believe us," he said. "This case strayed very far from the rule of law; there was clearly [political] interference, I think because of her petitioning activities."

"Wang Fengyun's petitioning put a lot of pressure on the local government, so they threw everything the county had at her to try to stop her," Zhang said.

Meanwhile, Wang's brother Wang Fenglong said the Duolun authorities were trying to make an example of his sister.

"It's pretty clear that they are going after this small case to scare everyone else off [petitioning]," he said. "This is a retaliatory attack on my sister."

Loss of land

Wang, who hails from a farming community in Xilingol League near the border with neighboring Mongolia, stood trial on charges of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble" at the Duolun County People's Court on March 13.

Footage shot by relatives showed Wang Fengyun lying immobile and unconscious on a stretcher surrounded by uniformed police officers, and lying in the ambulance being cared for by paramedics with a police escort.

Wang and her father Wang Xingshu and husband Zhang Shufeng were detained last September following a petitioning trip to Beijing, all on the same charges.

They were charged after the three of them traveled to Beijing to lodge a complaint against officials in their local government over the loss of their land to a highway development.

According to their lawyers, the government took over their land and built a road on it from 2011-2013, but a land requisition order was issued by the government only on June 16, 2015.

The family's complaint was that the local government had acted illegally.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party's domestic security budget was last reported in 2013 at 895.7 billion yuan (U.S. $130 billion), when it exceeded military spending.

Since then, no further figures have been forthcoming for the cost of nationwide operations—known collectively as the "stability maintenance system"—aimed at curbing mass protests, petitions, and other forms of peaceful dissent.

According to official figures, some six million complaints are registered against the government across the country every year.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.