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Subversion Charge against Little-Known Activist Indicates Heightened Crackdown on Dissent in China

(Chinese Human RightsDefenders, November 22, 2010) CHRD learned last weekthat Li Tie (李铁), a Wuhan City, HubeiProvince-based democracyactivist and online freelance writer, has beenarrested on charges of“subversion of state power.” The Chinese governmenthas in recent yearsprimarily pursued the charge of “subversion” againstorganizers of oppositionparties and a conviction carries a likely sentence ofat least ten years injail. CHRD urges the Chinese government to immediatelyrelease Li Tie andrespect freedom of expression on the internet. “This serious chargeagainst Li Tie is both groundless and deeplytroubling,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’sInternational Director. “The timing of Li’s arrest,and the change of thecharge against him from ‘inciting subversion’ to'subversion,' demonstrate thegovernment's toughening stance against dissent in thewake of Liu Xiaobo’sNobel Peace Prize.”Mr. Li, 48,wasoriginally detained by the Wuhan City Public SecurityBureau on September 15,2010, on suspicion of “inciting subversion of statepower.”  When the Wuhan CityProcuratorate issued adocument formally authorizing his arrest on October22, however, the charge hadbeen changed to “subversion of state power,” a moreserious crime.  Both crimes arefound in Article 105 of theChinese Criminal Law, but the latter calls for asentence of “life imprisonmentor fixed-term imprisonment of not less than 10 years”for those who “act asringleaders or commit major crimes” to “plot or carryout the scheme ofsubverting the State power or overthrowing thesocialist system.” In contrast,those who “incite others… to subvert the State poweror overthrow thesocialist system shall be sentenced to fixed-termimprisonment of not more thanfive years,” unless they “commit major crimes,” whichcarry a sentence of “notless than five years.” Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11years in prison for“inciting subversion of state power,” an unusuallyheavy sentence for thecharge, though sentences of a similar length have beenmore common fordissidents convicted of “subversion of state power” inrecent years.Fellow activistsexpressed surprise and concern upon hearing the news.Li is known primarily forwriting and publishing articles online about democracyand constitutionalgovernment. Since 2008, he has organized annualgatherings in Suzhou City,Jiangsu Province, to honor the memory of Lin Zhao (林昭),a poet and dissident who was imprisoned for a decadebefore being executed in1968 and who has become an inspirational figure formodern activists anddissidents. On April 29, 2010, Li was forciblyreturned to Wuhan from theseactivities in Suzhou by National Security officers andthreatened by police notto write articles or gather with friends for “a periodof time.” News of hisarrest waslate in reaching friends and fellow activists becauseLi is frequently out oftouch with others due to police pressure, and so hisprolonged silence did notraise any concerns. When he was taken into custody,family members initiallyrefused to hire a lawyer to represent him, saying "hesimply hasn'tcommitted a crime, so what need is there for alawyer?" They have since attemptedto secure legal representation for Li, but havereportedly come under pressurefrom local police, who insist they use agovernment-appointed lawyer.  Liis currently detained at the Wuhan CityNumber Two Detention Center.Li Tie was previouslyemployed by a state-run company, but was laid off someyears ago. He is afreelance contributor to internet publications, andhas published articles onsuch pro-democracy websites as Democratic China andthe overseas independentnews portal Boxun. He signed Charter 08and has participated in politically “sensitive”activities or gatheringsorganized by democracy activists.Media ContactsReneeXia,International Director(English and Mandarin), +852 8191 6937 or +1 301 5479286David Smalls, Researcher (English) +1 747 448 5285

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