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

  • Red-suited SantaCon pub crawl revelers fan out across NYC [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — Red-suited revelers fanned out across New York City’s bars Saturday despite efforts by a community group to deter the annual pub crawl known as SantaCon. Fliers that claimed SantaCon had been cancelled went up in some neighbourhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn as the holiday bacchanal approached. Source
  • Mountie sues, alleges PTSD from exposure to child porn in sex offences unit

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- An RCMP officer has filed a lawsuit alleging he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after being exposed to a "significant volume" of child pornography while working in a specialized unit. Const. Michael Wardrope says he was exposed to disturbing videos, photographs, interviews and interrogations as a member of the child abuse and sexual offence unit in Surrey, B.C. Source
  • Police link many of province's 130 ATM heists to just two gangs

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Alberta RCMP commanding officer Marianne Ryan credits data-driven policing for linking a series of seemingly random ATM thefts to organized crime. “It's providing a compass for police to go out and track it down,” said Ryan, adding, “that is a tremendous resource. Source
  • Ice bombs force Alex Fraser Bridge in Vancouver to close 

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    If you thought the snow was done, think again. Snow, ice and rain continued to snarl travel plans on Saturday throughout Metro Vancouver and is expected to cause further challenges next week as temperatures drop and wet roads begin to freeze. Source
  • Bristol Palin announces she is expecting her third child

    World News Toronto Sun
    Bristol Palin is expecting her third child, she tells Entertainment Tonight. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s daughter announced her pregnancy on ET. She and husband Dakota Meyer said they are excited and “blessed” to welcome a baby in the spring. Source
  • Dylann Roof told FBI he wanted to kill blacks because he believed they rape white women daily

    World News Toronto Sun
    CHARLESTON, S.C. — Dylann Roof hesitated for about 20 seconds when an FBI agent asked him what he was doing on the night nine black church members were killed during Bible study. “Uh, I did it,” Roof said in a video recording played for the public for the first time Friday at his death penalty trial. Source
  • Small plane crashes near Levis, Que.

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    LEVIS, Que. — The Transportation Safety Board says a small plane with two people aboard has crashed in a river south of Quebec City. The condition of those aboard has not been released. Board spokesman Chris Krepski says the two-seater Grumman AA-1 went down near Levis, Que. Source
  • 2 explosions outside Istanbul soccer stadium; At least 20 cops injured

    World News Toronto Sun
    ISTANBUL — Two explosions struck Saturday night outside a major soccer stadium in Istanbul after fans had gone home, an attack that wounded at least 20 police officers, Turkish authorities said. One of the blasts was thought to be a car bomb and the second appeared to have been caused by a suicide bomber. Source
  • Trump cheered by fans at annual Army-Navy game

    World News CTV News
    BALTIMORE -- Donald Trump was greeted with cheers on his arrival at the annual Army-Navy game on Saturday, basking in the one of the nation's most storied football rivalries as he prepares to enter the White House. Source
  • Dylann Roof's confession and journal detail racist beliefs

    World News CTV News
    CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Prosecutors are using the Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof's own words to portray him as a cruel angry racist at his death penalty trial. Roof's two-hour confession to killing nine people at a church Bible study, recorded the day after the shooting, was introduced as evidence Friday, along with a handwritten journal found in his car. Source