Attorney Says Pu Zhiqiang Could Face Harsher Charges

Human rights lawyer , detained in May after attending a gathering to mark the 25th anniversary of the June 4th 1989 crackdown and formally arrested in June on suspicion of causing disturbance and illegally obtaining personal information, may be facing additional charges that could yield up to a ten year prison sentence. Reuters’ Megha Rajagopalan and Sui-lee Wee report:

Prosecutors are considering adding charges of inciting ethnic hatred and discrimination and separatism, a more serious crime, said Pu’s lawyer, . He said he was less certain of the more serious separatism charge.

“That charge (of separatism) is extremely unusual,” Mo said.

Mo said the charge of inciting ethnic hatred and discrimination stem from a blog post Pu wrote about a violent attack in the southwestern city of Kunming that killed 29 people in March. China blamed the attack on Islamist militants, sometimes referred to as East Turkestan separatists, who it says seek to split the country by seeking an independent state in the country’s far west region of Xinjiang.

“You (the party) just give me one line – extremely heavy casualties with too brutal consequences – but to say you bear no responsibility for Xinjiang separatists’ cruelty, I am not satisfied with that,” Pu wrote in his March 2 microblog post.

Inciting ethnic hatred or discrimination carries a prison sentence of up to three to ten years in serious cases.

Authorities have transferred Pu’s case to prosecutors who now have to decide how to proceed. […] [Source]

As part of a broad crackdown on civil society, Beijing has been aggressively targeting human rights lawyers and activists. Several prominent international human rights groups penned a joint letter to Barack Obama ahead of his recent trip to China, urging him to publicly press China on its human rights record.

In response to a rise in violence in Xinjiang and greater China carried out by members of the Uighur ethnic minority, a “people’s war against terrorism” is being carried out in the region. Some point to increasingly oppressive policies in the region as a major source of unrest.

Read more on Pu Zhiqiang’s case, via CDT.