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Veteran Democracy Activist Chen Wei Gets 9 Years for Speech Crime

Earlier today, the Suining Intermediate People’s Court in Sichuan Province heard the case against veteran activist Chen Wei (陈卫) for “inciting subversion of state power.” At the conclusion of the 2.5 hour hearing, the court rendered a guilty verdict and sentenced Chen Wei to nine (9) years in prison and two years’ deprivation of political rights, the harshest sentence handed down so far to an activist detained in the “jasmine revolution” crackdown. 

Beijing-based attorney Liang Xiaojun (梁晓军), one of Chen’s lawyers, told CHRD when reached by phone after the trial that “The verdict was predetermined, the trial was unlawful! I’m speechless, I really have no words to describe it.”  Chen Wei was not allowed to make any statement before he was rushed out of the courtroom while he was heard saying “I am not guilty! Constitutional democracy will win, dictatorship will be defeated!”

In its two-page indictment, the Suining Municipal People’s Procuratorate offers as “evidence” of inciting subversion (Criminal Law art. 105(2)) four articles that Chen Wei allegedly wrote and published between March 2009 and January 2011 The four essays, “The Disease of the System and the Medicine of Constitutional Democracy,” “The Key to China’s Democratization is the Growth of a Civil Opposition,” “The Feet of the Rights Defense [Movement] and the Brain of the Constitutional Democracy Movement,” and “Thoughts on Human Rights Day Hunger Strike.”  The indictment also references specific language contained in these essays as “evidence” of “spreading rumors” and “defamation”:  “people have been deprived of their thoughts and beliefs,” “the Chinese Communist Party uses the machinery of violence to control the people,” and the CCP is the “enemy of democracy,” and “everyone has seen clearly the anti-humanity nature of the CCP.”   The indictment further points to these phrases in Chen’s essays as “evidence” of “incitement”:   “the death knell for the one-party dictatorship has been sounded,” “this system must be changed,” and “use street protests to promote politics among the people.” 

The procuratorate opines that because the articles were reposted and linked to broadly, such widespread distribution had a “very bad effect.”  The indictment calls for Chen to be punished severely in accordance with the Criminal Law’s provision governing recidivism involving crimes of endangering state security (art. 66), because Chen was previously convicted of counterrevolutionary crimes.  In March this year, fellow Sichuan activist Liu Xianbin (刘贤斌) was sentenced to 10 years in prison after he was convicted of the same crime by the same court.

About 200 police vehicles blocked all the roads leading to the court, preventing anybody from getting close to it. A number of activists, such as Duan Qixian (端启宪) and Zhang Wei (张维), both from Guangxi province, were taken away by the police and have been detained at a local police station as of the filling of this report.

“This severe punishment against an activist, caught up in the Jasmine Crackdown, shows how the Chinese government is still nervous,” said Wang Songlian, CHRD research coordinator. “All its latest moves--its attempts to control the microblogs, its crackdown on activists, show its tightening control on freedom of expression and other civil liberties.

Chen has been held in the Suining Municipal Detention Center.  Authorities took him into custody on February 20 during the “Jasmine Crackdown” and formally arrested him for “inciting subversion” on March 28 of this year.  Prior to the trial held today, the court twice sent Chen’s case back to the procuratorate for supplementary investigation due to lack of evidence.  In late November, the court accepted the case. The Suining authorities frequently prevented Zheng Jianwei from meeting with his client, so in the end they were able to meet only three times before today’s trial.

Chen Wei is 42 years old and a native of Suining City. In 1989, as a student at the Beijing Institute of Technology, Chen became involved in the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests, which resulted in a prison term in which he served in Qincheng Prison.  About a year and a half after his release, in May 1992, Chen was arrested for commemorating the June 4 massacre and organizing a political party, and was sentenced to five years in prison. During the past several years, Chen has emerged as a leader in promoting human rights in Sichuan.

CHRD calls on the Chinese government to immediately release Chen Wei, who has been imprisoned solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression and opinion guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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