As part of an ongoing government crackdown, many Chinese activists have recently been targeted for the alleged “subversion of state power.” Democracy activist Zhu Yufu, arrested last April for the “incitement of subversion,” was handed his sentence by a Hangzhou court today. AP reports:
A Chinese court has sentenced a dissident writer to seven years in prison over a poem he wrote urging his countrymen to gather at a public square, a human rights group said Friday.
The hefty sentence comes ahead of next week’s visit to the U.S. by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping— widely expected to be China’s next leader — where he is likely to face questions on human rights.
A court in Hangzhou city sentenced dissident Zhu Yufu on Friday in a hearing attended by his ex-wife and son, said the Chinese Human Rights Defenders. Zhu’s ex-wife and lawyers could not immediately be reached.
Zhu is among a group of writers and intellectuals targeted by Chinese authorities in a crackdown aimed at preventing Arab Spring-style popular uprisings.
Three other dissidents have received nine- and 10-year prison terms for subversion or inciting subversion over the last few months.
The Guardian has quoted Zhu’s son, who describes the activities that landed Zhu in court:
Zhu Yufu was jailed for “inciting subversion of state power” by a court in Hangzhou, eastern China, after a trial hearing on 31 January when prosecutors cited a poem and messages he had sent on the internet, his son Zhu Ang told Reuters.
The poem said: “It’s time, Chinese people! It’s time. The Square belongs to all.” References to a “square” might evoke memories among many Chinese people of Tiananmen Square in Beijing, though the poem did not mention it or the 1989 pro-democracy protests.
Prosecutors also cited text messages that he sent using Skype. There was no suggestion that the online chat service helped police to collect evidence.
[…]He [Zhu Ang] said the verdict cited his father’s online calls for mobilisation in the name of democracy.
An English translation of the entire poem can be seen on Bruce Hume’s blog.
“Basically, the only chance that my father had to say anything was when he was being taken out after the hearing, and he stopped and said, ‘I want to appeal’.”
Mr Zhu, a veteran activist who turns 59 this month, was involved in the 1979 Democracy Wall movement, which pressed for faster change in China.
He has been jailed twice before for his activism – in 1999 for seven years and in 2007 for two years.
Zhu’s incarceration comes just as Vice President Xi Jinping prepares to visit the U.S. The sentencing happened in spite of a recent meeting between U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (who will be Xi Jinping’s host) and China focused human rights activists. From the Taipei Times:
In the meeting, Biden and the activists “discussed the deterioration of China’s human rights situation, prospects for reform and recommendations for US policy,” a White House statement said.
“The vice president underscored the administration’s belief in the universality of human rights and its commitment to human rights as a fundamental part of our foreign policy,” it said.
“He reiterated his view that greater openness and protection of universal rights is the best way to promote innovation, prosperity and stability in all countries, including China,” it said.
An AFP report describes U.S. State Department appeals on Zhu’s behalf:
“We are deeply concerned about these reports that he has been found guilty of inciting subversion of state power and sentenced to seven years in prison for writing a poem,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
[…]”We call on the Chinese government to release Zhu Yufu and all others detained for exercising their rights and to respect the universal human rights of all their citizens,” she added.