Sichuan Rights Defenders Convicted on Trumped-up Fraud Charges

(ChineseHuman Rights Defenders, August 20,2010)- This afternoon, the Ziliujing District People’sCourt in Zigong City,Sichuan Province convicted human rights defenders Liu Zhengyou (刘正有), Hu Yulan (胡玉兰), Ma Xingquan (马兴权), and Feng Guiqin (冯桂琴) of “fraud.” All fourwere involved in a group known to localresidents as a “non-governmental letters and visitsoffice,” dedicated todefending the rights of villagers and petitioners inSichuan Province. However,only Liu remains in detention following the verdict.CHRD believes that thecharge of “fraud” is groundless and that localofficials are persecuting theactivists, and particularly Liu, for their years ofhuman rights activism.

“By convicting theseland and housing rightsactivists on trumped-up charges, and singling out Liu Zhengyou forharsher punishment, the government is sending an unequivocalmessage of intimidation to otheractivists,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s InternationalDirector. 

Liu, Ma, and Feng wereall sentenced to two years in prison, and Hu sentencedto one year and sixmonths with a two-year reprieve. Ma will serve hissentence outside of prisondue to illness, while Feng has been released onmedical parole. Liu, who is 58years old, is reportedly in very poor health as aresult of his months indetention; during a meeting in June with his lawyerZheng Jianwei (郑建伟), Liu appeared“extremely weak” and had to besupported by two policemen. He currently suffers fromhigh blood pressure, and appeared verythinand frail in court.

Over 100 supportersgathered to await the verdict outside the courthouseon the afternoon of August20, and a large number of uniformed and plainclothespolice were on hand tocontrol the crowd. Of Liu’s family and supporters,only Liu Jing (刘静), his daughter, wasallowed to attend thesentencing. One activist who applied for permission toattend, Luo Shimo (罗世模), was taken away bypolice and held in a nearbyteahouse during the proceedings.

Liu was originallydetained on November 11, 2009, and if he serves hisfull sentence, will bereleased on November 10, 2011.

CHRD condemns theimprisonment of Liu Zhengyouand demands his immediate release. We believe that Liu isbeing imprisoned solely for exercising hisrights to freedom of expression, association and todefend the human rights ofothers. His detention is arbitrary, as defined by theUnited Nations WorkingGroup on Arbitrary Detention, and violatesinternational human rights standardscontained in the Universal Declaration of HumanRights.

Background

Liu Zhengyou is alongtime activist and founder of a localrights-defense group responsible forproviding assistance to petitioners and documentinglocal rights abuses. Afarmer, construction worker and owner of a ruralmachine tool factory, Liu gothis start as a land rights activist in 1993 whenZigong City officials beganseizing farmland in and around the village where hewas living. He wasdesignated a leader by fellow farmers, and for thenext decade Liu led thefarmers in pursuing every available avenue ofpotential redress—filing lawsuitsand appeals, petitioning, and writing letters toofficials—without success. Liuhas been detained on a number of occasions over theyears for his activism, andin 2006 was prevented from leaving the country toattend a human rightstraining session in Geneva, Switzerland on the groundsthat he was under“criminal investigation” for his role in leading aprotest by villagers inShandong Province who had lost their land todevelopers without propercompensation.

Liu’s writings andessays appear frequently on news websites, such asBoxun (www.boxun.com), Canyu (www.canyu.org), and CHRD’s website.In 2006, Liu was one ofseven Chinese housing rights activists to jointlyreceive the Housing RightsDefender Award, presented by the Geneva-based Centreon Housing Rights andEvictions (COHRE).  

Liu was detained onsuspicion of “fraud” on November 11, 2009, andformally arrested on December 7,2009. After an illegally prolonged detention, duringwhich the procuratoratetwice sent Liu’s case back to the public securitybureau for supplementaryinvestigation, Liu and his co-defendants were tried onJuly 6. According toLiu’s lawyer, Zheng Jianwei (郑建伟), the trial wasmarred by irregularities. For example, Zhang Kai (张凯), lawyer for one ofLiu’s co-defendants, wasignored by the judge after requesting on multipleoccasions that courtofficials and prosecutors speak Mandarin, and thecourt refused to provideZhang with an interpreter to help him understand thelocal dialect.Furthermore, the defense was not allowed tocross-examine a number of witnessesduring the hearing, and the prosecutors presentedevidence during the hearingwhich had not previously been submitted to the court.

For MoreInformation:

“Land Rights ActivistLiu Zhengyou Criminally Detained on Suspicion of‘Fraud,’” November 12, 2009, http://chrdnet.org/2009/11/12/land-rights-activist-liu-zhengyou-criminally-detained-on-suspicion-of-fraud/

Media Contacts:

Renee Xia,InternationalDirector (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 6937 or +1301 547 9286

David Smalls,Researcher (English), +1 347 448 5285

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