Court in China’s Shandong jails poet who called on Xi Jinping to step down

Outspoken poet Lu Yang was detained shortly after posting a video clip making the demand to his WeChat account.
By Gao Feng for RFA Mandarin
2022.07.27
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Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during an event to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in Qingdao, eastern China's Shandong province, April 23, 2019.
AFP

A court in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong have handed down a six-year jail term to an outspoken poet who called on ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping to step down, two years after his trial.

Zhang Guiqi, 49, who is widely known by his penname Lu Yang, was sentenced to six years' imprisonment by the Liaocheng Intermediate People's Court, which found him guilty two years ago of "incitement to subvert state power."

"They informed his family by phone that he has been sentenced," Independent Chinese PEN's freelance coordinator Zhang Yu told RFA. "He was convicted of incitement to subvert of state power, sentenced to six years in prison and deprived of political rights for three years."

Lu pleaded not guilty, and plans to appeal, Zhang said.

"[His family] wanted to see the judgment, but they wouldn't show it to them because they said it was a crime involving national security, and was a state secret," Zhang said.

Lu's arrest came after he posted a video of himself calling on Xi to step down, and calling for "an end to the CCP dictatorship."

"At least three years of that sentence is linked to his mention of Xi Jinping, because if he'd called on anyone else to step down, it wouldn't have been aggravated, which would have meant a three-year sentence," Zhang said.

"That's one year each for each character [in Xi Jinping's name]."

Zhang said the video had been seen by a fairly small number of people to start with.

"I'm guessing that he may have used his superior knowledge of the law to argue back, making them ... retaliate hard against him," Zhang said.

Lu Yang was among a group of rights activists who went to the Shandong Jianzhu University in January 2017 to support a former professor there, Deng Xiangchao, who was targeted by Maoist protesters after he retweeted a post satirizing late supreme leader Mao Zedong.

The Shandong authorities terminated Deng's teaching contract after the incident, while Maoist flash mobs attacked Deng's supporters at the scene, including Yang.

Independent Chinese PEN issued a statement condemning the sentencing of Lu on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Lu's wife, who gave only a surname, Zhang, said she has been barred from giving interviews to foreign media, and has been threatened with the loss of her job by her current employer.

"I was in a very dark place, in hell, after I got the news [on July 26]," Zhang said. "I have been threatened by my employer ... and they told me not to speak to foreign media."

"I can't lose this job because I have to support older relatives and my kids, who are studying abroad."

Zhang is currently struggling to do that on a monthly salary of just 1,200 yuan, and the couple's art and teaching business had been shut down by the authorities after Lu was detained, on the grounds that he had a share in it, Zhang Yu told RFA.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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