China Human Rights Briefing November 2, 2012

Arbitrary Detention
 
Cao Haibo, Founder of Online Democracy Discussion Group, Sentenced to 8 Years for “Subversion”
 
In another case of political persecution of free speech, Cao Haibo (曹海波), a manager of an Internet café in Yunnan Province and organizer of a website that promotes democracy, was sentenced to eight years in prison for “subversion against state power” at a closed hearing on October 31. Reportedly, Cao’s alleged “crimes” consisted of expressing his political views online through a QQ group that he created—“Society to Strengthen China” (振华会), where members have discussed democratic reform and constitutional rights—and posting his own articles on such topics.
 
The case against Cao, 27, has been fraught with procedural flaws and myriad violations of Chinese law. Detained by police in Kunming in October 2011 and arrested the next month, Cao was tried in closed proceedings by the Kunming City Intermediate People’s on May 22, 2012. Police blocked his family members from attending the trial, claiming that “the case involved secrets.” The recent sentencing hearing was held without authorities notifying his family or lawyers, who only learned of the court’s decision upon receiving notification. “This is way too devious!” Cao’s lawyer Ma Xiaopeng (马小鹏) reportedly exclaimed after learning of the punishment. Originally from Jiangsu Province, Cao has been detained at the Xishan District Detention Center in Kunming.
 
The harsh sentence against Cao Haibo comes at an extremely sensitive time in China, just as the top Party leaders are in the middle of a tense political power transition, and with authorities nationwide staging a strident crackdown against activists and dissidents (see CHRD’s statement).[1]

Edited by Victor Clemens and Renee Xia
 

[1] “’Society to Strengthen China’ Website Founder Cao Haibo Sentenced to 8 Years in Prison for ‘Subversion’” (振华会创始人曹海波被以“颠覆罪”秘密判刑8年), November 1, 2012, WQW; “Cai Haibo, Accused of ‘Subversion,’ Has ‘Secret Case’ Tried in Closed Hearing” (曹海波“涉嫌颠覆国家政权”案因“案件涉密”未公开审理), May 22, 2012, WQW; “Cao Haibo Detained for Four Months, Wife and Child in Urgent Need of Assistance” (曹海波被羁押4个月,妻儿急需社会救助), February 29, 2012, WQW; Jiangsu Netizen Cao Haibo Summoned and Home Searched for Suspicion of “Inciting Subversion of State Power” (江苏网友曹海波在昆明被以涉嫌“煽动颠覆国家政权” 带走), October 21, 2011

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