Environmentalist author and former official Liu Futang was sentenced on Wednesday following his trial in October for publishing without a license. The court rejected Liu’s argument that he had not sought to make a profit from distributing his books, and had given most copies away for free. From Li Jing at South China Morning Post:
Liu, 65, was sentenced to three years in prison, but given a full reprieve, and fined 17,000 yuan (HK$21,000). He is thought to have struck a plea deal to avoid imprisonment.
[…] The conviction and plea deal will effectively silence the vocal activist, who has repeatedly revealed environmental degradation caused by government-backed projects in Hainan.
[…] The trial of Liu, who was detained in July, sparked a national outcry. At least 26 mainland environmental NGOs and several hundred individuals submitted signed letters to the Haikou court calling for his release.
“The Hainan government wanted to impose a much harsher punishment on Liu but never expected that Liu’s trial would spark such strong opposition from grass-roots environmental activists around the country,” said Feng [Yongfeng, founder of Green Beagle].
Although Liu’s case was heard in the run-up to the 18th Party Congress, when public debate was constrained, there was still widespread media attention, as well as high levels of concern from society as a whole. A statement from his lawyer calling for a fair hearing and the protection of the freedom of speech gathered signatures online. Hundreds contacted Zhou [Ze, Liu’s lawyer] directly to confirm their support. Hundreds more added their support to a campaign by environmentalists to have Liu named “Hainan’s Environmental Ambassador”.
Zhou says that Liu is by no means a criminal, and that the guilty verdict is unacceptable.
After the verdict was announced, Liu was set free and reunited with his family. Zhou, writing on his own blog, commented on the reasons behind the verdict:
In the preface to his book Speaking the Truth, Liu writes that “when again and again I rise and speak in anger, the public are pleased. They tell me I say what they want – but do not dare – to say. When again and again I expose problems, the ‘leaders’ are angry, saying I have blackened their names and damaged their records.”
See more on Liu Futang’s case at CDT.