Activists Convicted in Guangdong and Chengdu

On Friday, the Foshan Intermediate People’s Court in Guangdong convicted Chinese activists Su Changlan and Chen Qitang–both of whom voiced support for the 2014 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong–on subversion charges and sentenced them to three and four-and-a-half years in jail, respectively. Although Su and Chen’s verdicts were silent on the issue of Hong Kong, their earlier detentions were known to be linked to their activism. Venus Wu and Katy Wong at Reuters report:

At least four other Chinese …have been put behind bars for supporting Hong Kong’s large pro-democracy, “umbrella movement” protests in 2014. At least 100 people in China had been detained for voicing support for the demonstrations, according to Amnesty International.

[…] Su, a prominent women’s rights advocate in Southern China, had been taken into police custody by Guangzhou police in late 2014 for expressing support on social media for the Hong Kong protests. Su suffered from a thyroid ailment and had been denied multiple requests for bail on medical grounds.

Chen, meanwhile, had posted articles in support of human rights and Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, according to Amnesty International. [Source]

Catherine Lai at Hong Kong Free Press has more on Su’s case:

“An extremely absurd verdict,” her lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said on his Twitter account. “When announcing the judgement, they only read the prosecution’s allegations and the court’s decision, and didn’t mention the defence lawyer’s arguments. After the verdict, they didn’t ask Su Changlan whether she would appeal before banging the gavel and saying that the adjudication was over.”

[…] The court’s verdicts, photos of which Liu uploaded to Twitter, said that Su, by fabricating rumours and slander, submitted articles and commentary on online media many times, which “created an influence, attacking the socialist system, [and] inciting others to subvert state power.”

It mentioned articles she submitted to overseas websites such as Canyu.org, and the Women’s Rights in China website. Chen’s verdict said he was guilty of similar actions, citing articles he submitted to overseas site Aboluowang. The titles of the articles cited did not refer to Occupy.

According to the parts of the verdict that Liu posted online, Su’s defence lawyers argued that she lacked an objective intent to incite subversion. She said in her own defence that she did not personally post the content online and that she was only recording factual events, not fabricating them. [Source]

The duo’s convictions come amid a broader crackdown in Hong Kong on the activists of the 2014 “Umbrella Movement” protests. Several protest leaders were charged with public nuisance just days after Hong Kong’s chief executive elections last Sunday. More than 200 scholars from local and overseas universities have since signed a joint statement denouncing the prosecution of these activists.

Su and Chen’s heavy sentences are also seen as part of an ongoing crackdown on civil society in mainland China that began after President Xi Jinping took power in 2012. Scores of human rights lawyers and activists were arrested in a nationwide raid in 2015. A number of them have since been charged while others remain in detention. More recently, Australia-based Chinese academic Feng Chongyi was blocked from boarding a flight home from Guangzhou and questioned after meeting with Chinese liberal intellectuals and rights lawyers for his research. He was allowed to return to Australia on Sunday.

Human Rights Watch reports that another activist was also convicted on Friday by a court in Chengdu, Sichuan. Artist Chen Yunfei was sentenced to four years in prison for commemorating the Tiananmen massacre.

[…] The Wuhou District People’s Court in Chengdu, Sichuan’s capital, convicted Chen Yunfei, 49, an artist who is not related to Chen Qitang, for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and sentenced him to four years in prison.

[…] The conviction of Chen Yunfei related to tweets critical of the Chinese government and his various performance art projects, including one in which Chen Yunfei called the police to report an “illegal gathering,” which turned out to be a government conference. Police had detained Chen Yunfei in March 2015, after he organized a memorial service for victims of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

The prosecutions of the three activists were marred by multiple procedural violations and irregularities. The authorities denied the three access to their lawyers, subjected them to secret and prolonged pretrial detention, and denied Su adequate medical care. [Source]

Meanwhile, a court in Taipei has acquitted 22 Sunflower Student Movement over the 2014 occupation of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan. Those who were cleared of their charges include protest leaders Lin Fei-fan and Chen Wei-ting, who have shared their views on the work that remains to be done. From Brian Hioe at The News Lens:

Chen said that though the issue of the 318 Legislative Yuan occupation seems to have been settled, one cannot forget that the cases for the “324” attempted occupation of the Executive Yuan or the “411” demonstration surrounding Zhongzheng First Police Precinct are still ongoing. He also said that it has been one year since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took office, and since then Taiwan has witnessed the backsliding of the DPP on its commitment key demands called for by the Sunflower Movement, such as the cross-Straits oversight bill intended to monitor future cross-Strait agreements between Taiwan and China.

With the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China slated to take place this year, pressure on Taiwan is expected to increase and a meeting is scheduled to take place between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平). While this would suggest the cross-Straits oversight law being more important than ever, the DPP has backed away from the notion for fear of worsening relations with China.

Lin echoed Chen’s comments, stating that if participants of the 318 Legislative Yuan occupation had been found guilty, it should also be the same with participants of 324 and 411. Lin also reiterated the pressing need for judicial reform in Taiwan and that he hoped the results of today’s trial was a sign of progress in judicial reform. He said that whether or not Taiwan has accomplished demands made during the Sunflower Movement, it can be seen as a sign of Taiwan’s progress along the road of democracy and this is the means by which Taiwan should defend itself from China’s attempts to encroach on its sovereignty. Lin said the Sunflower Movement was not over as long as democracy in Taiwan still needs safeguarding. [Source]