Minitrue: Commentary Tasks for Pu Zhiqiang Verdict

The following Internet commentary instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.

XXX Important Notification:
This morning the Beijing court issued its sentence in the case, and Xinhua has already released relevant news. According to the newest work deployment orders, launch Internet commentary tasks by implementing the following instructions:
  1. All and coordinators contact municipal XXXX and closely follow their comments. Major commentators on Tencent, and comments on Today’s Headlines and other news websites and clients should closely follow the viewpoints expressed in Xinhua news reports. Adopt this position: http://top.todayonhistory.com/a/201512/27283.html
  2. This thread is not a uniform template. All Internet commentators are required to post three comments, including 1-2 pieces of quality content. Please everyone follow news reports to arrange posts with the following content:  Pu always plead guilty, offered a sincere apology to the community and victims, and recognized the criminal charges of the prosecution.
  3. Continue implementing these commentary directives from now until 8:30 a.m., December 23.
  4. Attentively guard this internal information on Internet commentary, do not leak relevant Internet commentary work information.
  5. Collect and summarize a work report. Please submit before 8:30 a.m., December 23 on WeChat (including participating staff, post address, post quantity, etc.) (December 22, 2015) [Chinese]

On December 22, prominent rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang was given a three-year suspended sentence for “inciting ethnic hatred” and “ and provoking trouble.” Having already spent the previous 19 months in detention, Pu was released from custody and is now under “residential surveillance.” An English-language report on the verdict from Xinhua exemplifies the type of information the above directives seek to spread online:

Pu Zhiqiang was handed a suspended three-year prison sentence for inciting ethnic hatred and disturbing public order, a Beijing court ruled on Tuesday.

Pu was given a light punishment after a public trial as he confessed his crime honestly, pleaded guilty and repented his guilt. Pu accepted the verdict and said he will not appeal.

The court determined Pu provoked ethnic discord and incited ethnic hatred via multiple entries he posted on his social media account on Weibo.com from 2012 to 2014.

His widely viewed and shared posts stirred ethnic hatred among Internet users, triggering an antagonistic mentality in many and creating a severe social impact. [Source]

While Xinhua highlights the “light punishment” Pu was given due to his confession and acknowledgment of guilt, commentators remind us that the guilty verdict ends the legal career of China’s most prominent free speech lawyer. Writing at The New York Times, outspoken artist Ai Weiwei recalls his experience being defended by Pu, and laments the loss of his continued advocacy in China:

Over the years, Zhiqiang has defended many journalists, petitioners and human rights activists. His legal advocacy, along with his valor and superior skills, made him a target for political persecution. The leadership sees his rising influence as a threat.

The outcome is better than expected, perhaps due to international pressure, but upon his release from detention, Zhiqiang’s life will be anything but normal. The police will monitor his every move, and they can jail him at any time if he resumes his political activities in the next three years.

The outcome is better than expected, perhaps due to international pressure, but upon his release from detention, Zhiqiang’s life will be anything but normal. The police will monitor his every move, and they can jail him at any time if he resumes his political activities in the next three years.

[…] China suffers a severe shortage of independent lawyers brave enough to fight for the universal value of human rights. But Zhiqiang is different. […] [Source]

Also at The New York Times, Patrick Boehler and Vanessa Piao draw attention to the courageous legal work Pu had committed himself to:

Pu Zhiqiang, the Chinese civil rights lawyer who was given a three-year suspended prison sentence on Tuesday, had campaigned for years to draw attention to travesties of justice in China’s courts, which often suffer from political interference.

For one such case he worked on before his detention in May 2014, he conducted a video interview with a disgraced official who said he was detained by Communist Party investigators without due process and was tortured during questioning.

In this video, with English subtitles provided by the Journalism and Media Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong, the official, Xiao Yifei, describes his ordeal to Mr. Pu:

[Source] [Video]

At China Change, Mo Zhixu profiles Pu to describe the influential lawyer’s accomplishments and sacrifices over the past 26 years—and why authorities came to view him as a threat:

Pu Zhiqiang is a well-known human rights lawyer in the mainland. As a graduate student at China University of Political Science and Law, he took active part in the 1989 student movement and was one of 13 students from his university to take part in the first wave of hunger strikes in Tiananmen Square. Pu was also one of the last students to leave the square on June 4th.

Over the next 25 years, Pu Zhiqiang remained committed to commemorating the events of 1989 in his own way, which included going to Tiananmen Square each June 4th to pay homage to the dead. On the 15th anniversary in 2004, Pu Zhiqiang played a part in issuing the “Statement of the ’89 Generation on the June 4th Issue.” In 2008, Pu was also among the first group of 303 Chinese to sign Charter ’08. In addition, Pu Zhiqiang long maintained close and friendly relations with dissidents and liberals such as Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), Zhang Zuhua (张祖桦), Zhang Xianyang (张显扬), Jiang Ping (江平), and Zhang Sizhi (张思之). He was active in the pan-liberal camp and could even, in a broad sense, be considered a dissident.

[…] After June 4th, the authorities tried to use economic development and the fading effect of time to eliminate the problem of June 4th once and for all. To this end, they carried out 26 years of continuous pressure and attempts to isolate the incident from the public. This is why the authorities could not tolerate Pu Zhiqiang’s rising influence, and, to a great degree, it explains why they would go to ridiculous lengths to use a mere seven Weibo posts to charge Pu with two crimes. In fact, the very thing that ultimately led to Pu Zhiqiang’s arrest was a gathering of a dozen or so people in a private home to hold a seminar on the 25th anniversary of June 4th in Beijing. […] [Source]

During his trial last week, legal analysts found many faults in the charges against Pu. Following the verdict, the European Union issued a statement questioning the legality of the sentencing under China’s constitution, and calling for Pu’s political rights to be fully rehabilitated and reinstated.

真Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source.