Court in China's Hebei Jails Agricultural Magnate Sun Dawu For 18 Years

Sun is found guilty of 'picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,' a charge often used to target peaceful critics of the government.
By Lu Xi
Court in China's Hebei Jails Agricultural Magnate Sun Dawu For 18 Years Chinese agricultural magnate Sun Dawu is shown at a feed warehouse in Hebei in a file photo.

A court in the northern province of Hebei on Wednesday handed down an 18-year jail term to an agricultural billionaire who aided China's embattled human rights lawyers.

Sun Dawu, 57, was handed the sentence by the Gaobeidian Municipal People's Court, which found him guilty of a slew of charges including "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," a charge often used to target critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Sun was also found guilty in a trial behind closed doors alongside 20 relatives and colleagues of "gathering a crowd to attack government departments" and "obstructing officials in the course of their administration."

He was also ordered to pay fines of 3.11 million yuan (U.S.$475,000) by the court.

Sun's eldest son Sun Meng, was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment, while his brothers Sun Dehua and Sun Zhihua were handed jail terms of 12 and nine years respectively.

Sun told the court in his closing statement at the trial, which was held behind closed doors amid unprecedented surveillance and security, that he was a loyal CCP supporter who ran his business according to socialist ideals of shared prosperity.

In a reference to late Song Dynasty general Yue Fei, a legendary folk hero generally said to have died on the orders of chancellor Qin Hui on a trumped-up charge, Sun said: "There are no guarantees that loyal service to one's country will result in a happy ending."

"Let's be clear about why Yue Fei died - was the Imperial court unaware of his loyalty?" Sun said. "No, it was because he commanded the Yue family army, and had gotten powerful enough to be a threat to the throne."

Sun also alluded to CCP leader Xi Jinping's current campaign to reduce the power and wealth of the private sector in favor of state-owned enterprises.

Sun's legal team has said the trial was "not a normal legal trial," with marathon hearings lasting over 12 hours and a slew of complex charges and allegations dating back several years.

Targeted for political reasons

The Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network has said Sun is being targeted for political reasons, due to his association with detained democracy activist Xu Zhiyong.

Following his detention April 2021 alongside dozens of Dawu Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Group employees, some of whom are members of his family, Sun and six others were held incommunicado under "residential surveillance at a designated location (RSDL)."

He told the court that he had requested a transfer to a regular detention center because of the way he was treated under RSDL.

“During RSDL, I once requested to be transferred to the detention center because my treatment produced misery beyond words and life was worse than death," Sun told the court on July 16, in comments translated by his defense team.

"I went on a hunger strike for three days," he said. "[Eventually] they gave me an hour of yard time. I saw the sun for the first time in three and a half months."

Sun's detention came after Dawu employees in August 2020 tried to stop a state-owned enterprise from demolishing a company building.

Seven of the defendants were placed under RSDL, and also reported being subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment, the defense team statement said.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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