China Jails Activist Who Helped Huang Qi's Mother For 'Terrorism'


2020-11-10
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zhangbaocheng.jpg Beijing-based veteran human rights activist Zhang Baocheng, a former member of the New Citizens Movement, in an undated photo.
Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch

A court in the Chinese capital has handed down a three-and-a-half year jail term to a veteran rights activist after finding him guilty of "terrorism."

Zhang Baocheng, who has previously taken part in the New Citizens Movement calling on ruling Chinese Communist Party leaders to reveal details of their personal assets, was handed the sentence by the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court in a recent ruling, following a secret trial.

The court found that Zhang had "ignored national laws and used information networks to pick quarrels and stir up trouble."

It said his dissemination of video clips constituted the promotion of terrorism and extremism, and noted that the charge against him came within five years of his release at the end of an earlier jail sentence.

Zhang's wife Liu Juefan, who now lives in the United States, said she was sad and angry at the sentence.

"I feel very angry and sad at the same time," Liu told RFA. "The anger is about the fact that there was no factual basis for these charges, and yet they sentenced Zhang Baocheng with no evidence."

"The sad thing is that my husband is still behind bars," she said. "This is authoritarian, totalitarian suppression of freedom of speech."

One of the items found on Zhang's phone and used in alleged evidence against him was a video clip of Pu Wenqing, the ailing mother of jailed Sichuan rights activist Huang Qi, who stayed with Zhang for several weeks in October 2018 while she was petitioning for her son's release.

"The so-called evidence for jailing him for three-and-a-half years was that he helped [Huang Qi's] mother Pu Wenqing ... who was calling publicly for Huang Qi to be released from jail on medical parole," Liu said.

"The Chinese Communist Party thinks people should be doing each other down all the time, not helping the weak," she said. "It's the only thing they know."

Zhang was warned by police not to help Pu, but he continued to escort her to government offices and on sightseeing trips, and posted photos of "Huang's Mother" to social media, activists said at the time.

'The wrong outcome'

His defense attorney Lu Tingge said the sentence was wrong.

"From a legal point of view, I think that this was the wrong outcome, because there wasn't enough evidence," Lu said. "He should have been acquitted."

"We will definitely be appealing, as we have previously indicated," he said.

Lu said the charge of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble" was based on claims that Zhang had given out public information about Huang Qi's illness, and his support of Pu.

But he said the video of Pu used as evidence hadn't even been posted online, and was therefore invalid as evidence.

To back up the "terrorism" charges, prosecutors cited a retweet Zhang allegedly made of an ISIS video. Rights groups say that Chinese nationals have been detained in the past for using ISIS videos to criticize Beijing's ties with the Taliban.

The authorities also cited more than 2,000 posts to Twitter, which is blocked to the majority of Chinese internet users.

"Comments made on Twitter are actually blocked in China, and can't be read inside China's internet," Lu told RFA.

"Those comments were seen outside China, and therefore couldn't possibly have caused trouble on the Chinese internet," he said.

Zhang was detained alongside other activists ahead of the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre on June 4, after which many activists are generally released.

Zhang has already served a two-year jail term from April 2014 for "gathering a crowd to disturb public order," linked to his participation in the New Citizens' Movement.

New Citizens' Movement activists Li Wei and Ding Jiaxi, who called publicly on Chinese officials to reveal details of their wealth, and veteran democracy activist Zhao Changqing were jailed at the same time on the same charge.

Movement founder Xu Zhiyong was China's highest-profile dissident to be sentenced to jail since 2009, when Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo was ordered imprisoned for 11 years for subversion after helping organize the "Charter 08" petition calling for sweeping political change and a constitutional government.

Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Ng Yik-tung and Sing Man for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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