Clampdown Around Activist's Trial

Chinese authorities block shows of support for jailed rights campaigner.
2011-09-09
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Supporters wait outside the trial of Wang Lihong in Beijing, Aug. 12, 2011.
AFP

Authorities in the Chinese capital have handed a nine-month jail term to a veteran civil rights campaigner after holding her for six months.

Doctor-turned-activist Wang Lihong, 55, was sentenced for "creating a disturbance" by the Beijing Intermediate People's Court this week, according to her lawyer.

Wang has been in detention for nearly six months already, and under Chinese law only has a little more than three months left to complete her sentence.

Her detention is believed to have been linked to her protest in support of three bloggers in Fujian, who were tried and sentenced in April 2010 for writing about the controversial death of a local woman.

The Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) group said in a statement on its website that many of Wang's supporters were prevented from leaving home to attend the court or had to wait outside the building.

Among them was Zhao Lianhai, a campaigner for parents of children affected by the 2008 tainted milk scandal, the group said.

"Sending Wang Lihong to prison suggests that the Chinese government feels quite confident to go after the less-known activists, to whom the international community has paid little attention," the group said.

Stopped at airport

Blogger You Jingyou, who was one of three who stood trial in Fujian, said he had not been able to travel to her trial, as the authorities were stopping him from leaving the airport.

"I don't think they will let me leave," said You, who was escorted back home by police the last time he tried to board a flight out of town.

"I wanted to express the gratitude of our family towards Wang and towards society," he said.

In 2010, a court in Fuzhou sentenced self-taught lawyer Fan Yanqiong to two years' imprisonment, while You Jingyou and Wu Huaying served one year each for defamation.

Instead, You sent his daughter You Xiangjing, who tried to attend Wang's trial as a representative of the "Fujian Three."

However, when contacted on Thursday, You Xiangjing said she was in a police car on her way back to Fuzhou after being met by six officers at the airport on her way to Beijing.

"We were about to get on the plane, and then they came and we weren't able to go," she said. "I don't know [how they knew]."

Nationwide crackdown

Wang was arrested in April amid a nationwide crackdown on dissent sparked by calls for a "Jasmine revolution" inspired by recent uprisings in the Middle East.

Lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said he had visited Wang at the detention center on Thursday, and that she had appeared calm and in good spirits when the verdict was announced in a Beijing district court in the presence of her son, brother, and sister.

Public order charges are increasingly being used by Chinese courts to silence dissent, and carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

In early August, prominent artist and social critic Ai Weiweirecently released from detention himself—posted a message on her behalf on his widely followed microblog.

"If you don't speak out for Wang Lihong, you are not just a person who will not stand up for fairness and justice, you do not have self-respect," he wrote.

More than 200 supporters, journalists, and diplomats gathered outside the courthouse to wait for the verdict Friday, and a large number of uniformed and plainclothes police were also present, the CHRD statement said.

But only Wang's family and lawyers were allowed to attend the hearing.

Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin service and by Grace Kei Lai-see for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.