Charges Dropped in Violinist’s Inciting Subversion Case

Prosecutors have dropped charges of inciting subversion against Chen Pingfu, a former teacher who became a street musician in order to pay medical bills. Chen subsequently wrote more than 300 online articles about abuses by and , based on his own and others’ experiences. From Austin Ramzy at TIME:

Chen’s lawyer, He Huixin, wrote a lengthy defense of his client, citing an argument put forward in support of Chen Duxiu, a Communist Party co-founder charged with similar crimes by Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist regime in 1933: that criticism doesn’t necessarily equate to . The government’s case against Chen didn’t seem to prove that he sought to bring down the system, says [Joshua] Rosenzweig: “The underlying weakness was the underlying weakness in most inciting cases—the tendency to see criticism of the Communist Party and its polices as an attempt to undermine the entire political system.”

[…] Still, a widespread relaxation in the way China handles such sensitive cases appears unlikely. “Chinese courts don’t set precedent in the way they do in common-law jurisdictions, so the way this case is handled doesn’t necessarily bind [other] judges,” says Rosenzweig. Sadly, the Chen verdict may prove to be a rare happy outcome.

In a previous report in September, Ramzy described some of Chen’s writings:

[…] Prosecutors in identified 34 in particular as evidence of the charge of inciting subversion. The titles include “I Can’t Bear Humiliation in Silence,” “The Call to Overthrow the Dictators Has Sounded” and “I Want Freedom, Respect and to Live Like a Normal Person.” They all bear the distinct voice of an educated man who once held a respected position in society enraged by the abuse he endures as an outcast hustling for a living on the streets. “Yesterday I saw a gang of fierce, imposing chengguan who drove away a middle-aged shoeshine man,” he wrote in a 2010 essay called “A Weasel Serves the Chickens.” “That shoeshine man wasn’t doing anything to inconvenience pedestrians, so why did they drive him off? If it weren’t for family difficulties or a lack of money, who would subserviently shine shoes like that?”

Chen places much of the blame for the injustices he faced on authoritarian system, and by endorsing the last year he made himself a target for the crackdown that followed in China. In an essay from February 2011, titled “Study the Egyptians, We Don’t Want to Be Fooled Again,” he wrote, “I’m convinced that if we didn’t have the [Communist] Party’s leadership, this society would finally be harmonious and peaceful.” […]