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

  • Ontario bill seeks to ban mandatory high heels

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO - An Ontario Liberal is introducing a bill today that would ban the province's employers from requiring women to wear high heels at work. The private member's bill from Cristina Martins would amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act to protect workers from being required to wear unsafe footwear as part of dress and uniform codes. Source
  • Kurdish forces pull out of Sinjar after losing Kirkuk

    World News CTV News
    IRBIL, Iraq - Iraq's Kurdish fighters have lost more territory in Iraq, a day after Iraqi forces pushed them out of the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk. In the town of Sinjar, commander of the local Yazidi militia, Masloum Shingali, says the Kurdish forces left before dawn on Tuesday, allowing Shiite-led militiamen who are fighting with Iraqi forces to move into the town. Source
  • China's president looks to extend power at Communist Party congress

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING - Having bested his rivals, Chinese President Xi Jinping is primed to consolidate his already considerable power as the ruling Communist Party begins its twice-a-decade national congress on Wednesday. From meetings largely cloaked in secrecy, powerful players will emerge publicly in new roles, and Xi will address the nation to lay out his political and economic vision for the world's second-largest economy over the next five years. Source
  • Californians brace for emotional toll from wildfires

    World News CTV News
    SANTA ROSA, Calif. - A week after fleeing wildfires, tens of thousands of Californians are drifting back into their neighbourhoods. Some will face the prospect of destroyed homes. All will face possible lasting emotional damage. Source
  • Calgary's Naheed Nenshi re-elected as mayor as Alberta votes in municipal elections

    Canada News CTV News
    CALGARY - A tight and sometimes nasty political race is coming to an end in Calgary, where incumbent Naheed Nenshi looks likely to be re-elected as mayor for a third term. With about half of polls reporting, Nenshi is headed toward beating Calgary lawyer Bill Smith by a significant margin. Source
  • Calgary's Nenshi re-elected as mayor as Alberta votes in municipal elections

    Canada News CTV News
    Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has handily won a third term after a bitter and divisive campaign during which his at-times prickly personality was a focus. His main challenger, former Progressive Conservative Party president Bill Smith, conceded around midnight Tuesday. Source
  • U.S., Japan agree to ramp up diplomatic pressure on North Korea

    World News CTV News
    TOKYO - U.S. and Japanese diplomats agreed Tuesday to maximize pressure on North Korea to resolve tensions over its nuclear program, while citing the need to be prepared for the worst if diplomacy failed. U.S. Source
  • Naheed Nenshi has been re-elected as Calgary mayor, CBC News projects

    Canada News CBC News
    CBC News has projected that Naheed Nenshi will be re-elected as mayor of Calgary. Nenshi has maintained a strong lead in Calgary's mayoral race throughout Monday night over his closest competitor, Bill Smith, as results trickled in after polls closed at 8 p.m. Source
  • Nenshi re-elected as Calgary's mayor as at least 9 incumbent councillors keep their seats

    Canada News CBC News
    CBC News has projected that Naheed Nenshi will be re-elected as mayor of Calgary. Nenshi has maintained a strong lead in Calgary's mayoral race throughout Monday night over his closest competitor, Bill Smith, as results trickled in after polls closed at 8 p.m. Source
  • Authorities make final arrest in U.S. border agent's killing

    World News CTV News
    PHOENIX - Authorities in Mexico have arrested the final of seven defendants accused in the killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent whose death exposed a bungled federal gun operation, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Source