Lawyer Pu Zhiqiang gets suspended jail sentence in online speech case

BEIJING - One of China's most prominent human rights lawyers is set to be freed after a Beijing court on Tuesday gave him a suspended jail sentence in a case involving online comments critical of the ruling Communist Party.

See Full Article

The court convicted Pu Zhiqiang on charges of provoking troubles and inciting ethnic hatred, and sentenced him to three years in prison but said the sentence will be suspended for three years.

Still, the guilty verdict disqualifies Pu from practicing law, and he must comply with certain restrictions and not commit crimes during the three-year period or risk being jailed.

Human rights group Amnesty International welcomed the suspended sentence but condemned the guilty verdict.

"Clearly it is positive that Pu Zhiqiang is unlikely to spend another night in jail, yet that cannot hide the gross injustice against him," said William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International in a written statement. "He is no criminal and this guilty verdict effectively shackles one of China's bravest champions of human rights from practicing law."

The verdict also stirred mixed feelings from Pu's supporters, who were celebrating Pu's pending release but also argue it was an injustice to find him guilty.

"After all, an innocent man has been locked up for 19 months. Under the suspended sentence, he finally can get out," said supporter Ren Jianyu. "It's good news but with a feeling of helplessness."

Pu's supporters believe the case was politically driven to punish the outspoken lawyer who has become a leading figure among China's human rights lawyers.

Pu was active in defending free speech and represented artist Ai Weiwei in a tax evasion case that Ai's supporters said was politically motivated. He also was instrumental in pushing for the eventual abolishment of the labour camp system, which allowed police to lock up people for up to four years without a trial.

Since coming to power in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping has spearheaded crackdowns on civil activists, rights lawyers and online freedom of expression, in moves aimed at snuffing out any potential threats to the Communist Party's grip on power.

Pu was detained shortly after attending a May 2014 meeting to discuss commemorating 25 years since the Tiananmen Square massacre, at a time when authorities were keeping a lid on any public commemorations of the event. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of protesters were killed in the crackdown, and the topic remains taboo in China.

After a prolonged investigation, Pu stood trial on Dec. 14 - after more than 19 months in detention - for several of his online comments that questioned Beijing's ethnic policies and poked fun at some political figures.

In one comment, Pu urged Beijing not to treat the ethnic region of Xinjiang as a colony and act as a conqueror and looter.

In another, Pu questioned why there were bloody incidents involving the Muslim minority of Uighurs when Beijing keeps touting how great its ethnic policies are.

He also derided a veteran delegate to the national congress known for her six decades of never casting a dissenting vote. Pu said she was either truly dumb or played dumb.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the posts involving ethnic issues, which collectively were reposted 2,500 times and received more than 1,300 comments, resulted in sharply antagonistic sentiments.

Xinhua said Pu's remarks about the national delegate and other public figures were insulting and triggered a huge wave of negative and abusive comments.

The court believed Pu's online speech on ethnic issues was provocative, effectively fanning ethnic hatred, and that his remarks on public figures were so vulgar and malicious they disturbed the public order, Xinhua said.

Xinhua said Pu admitted to the crimes and repented in court, but his lawyers said Pu only apologized for being impolite but insisted that he broke no law.

On Tuesday, hundreds of police barred foreign journalists from approaching the court. About a dozen diplomats who showed up in an attempt to watch the verdict being delivered said they were turned away on the grounds the courtroom was full.

At least one supporter who rallied outside the court was hauled away by police.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Murder trial to begin for Alta. man charged after couple, grandson disappear

    Canada News CTV News
    CALGARY - A murder trial is to begin today for a man charged with first-degree murder in the disappearance of an Alberta couple and their grandson. Douglas Garland, 56, was arrested after Alvin and Kathy Liknes and five-year-old Nathan O'Brien vanished from the couple's Calgary home in June 2014. Source
  • Ont. police issue Amber Alert for missing girl, 15

    Canada News CTV News
    MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - Police have issued an Amber Alert for a teenage girl they say was abducted Sunday afternoon in Mississauga, Ont. The victim is identified as Alyssa Langille, 15. Peel Regional police say a witness reported seeing two men force the girl into a mini-van early Sunday afternoon and then drive off. Source
  • The only skill needed to spin for Trump? A total lack of shame

    World News CBC News
    Spinner. Flack. Liar. Whatever your preferred term, a political spokesperson's job is to bend his or her politician's words into a passable version of the truth. It's not a job for the faint-hearted; it's full of pressure, the positions you defend can be obnoxious and you labour away under the sword of Damocles or, rather, its modern equivalent: the fast-moving bus. Source
  • Douglas Garland murder trial begins Monday in deaths of Calgary couple and their grandson

    Canada News CBC News
    The triple murder trial for the man accused of killing five-year-old Nathan O'Brien, and his grandparents Alvin and Kathy Liknes, will hear testimony from the boy's mother first, as it gets underway Monday morning in Calgary. Source
  • B.C. Indigenous leaders accuse Bennett of 'stall tactics' on child welfare

    Canada News CBC News
    B.C. Indigenous leaders are "extremely concerned" about the state of First Nations child welfare, and, in a strongly worded letter, are accusing Canada's Indigenous affairs minister of using "stall tactics" to delay fixing the broken system. Source
  • Andrew Scheer leads endorsement race in Conservative leadership campaign

    Canada News CBC News
    In his bid for the Conservative Party leadership, Andrew Scheer has the bulk of endorsements from current and former politicians. But because of the rules of the campaign, the contest will be decided in favour of the candidate who can garner the broadest base of support nationwide. Source
  • 'Secret order' authorizing RCMP's covert Cold War wiretapping program released after 65 years

    Canada News CBC News
    The "secret order" that authorized Canada's first warrantless domestic wiretapping program at the dawn of the Cold War threatened five years in prison to anyone who revealed the dragnet's existence, the newly released document shows. Source
  • Trump may be inaugurating an era of market failure in economics and ideas: Don Pittis

    World News CBC News
    Cynics may believe that business is based on a pack of lies, but at every level of business, from buying a used car to a billion-dollar stock deal, truth is precious. Investors have been pouring their money into stock markets on the assumption that U.S. Source
  • Oman says it will accept 10 Guantanamo Bay detainees

    World News CBC News
    Oman said Monday it accepted 10 inmates from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay ahead of President Barack Obama leaving office, part of his efforts to shrink the facility he promised to close. There was no immediate word from the U.S. Source
  • World Economic Forum begins with air of uncertainty as Trump presidency nears

    World News CBC News
    The global economy is in better shape than it's been in years. Stock markets are booming, oil prices are on the rise again and the risks of a rapid economic slowdown in China, a major source of concern a year ago, have eased. Source