(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, December 26, 2011) – Today, the day after Christmas, Chinese authorities sent another activist, Chen Xi (陈西), to prison for 10 years, with an additional 3-year deprivation of political rights for “inciting subversion of state power.” Chen's sentence by the Guiyang Intermediate People’s Court came three days after the Chinese government handed down a 9-year sentence to Sichuan activist Chen Wei (陈卫) for the same crime “inciting subversion.”
"Chinese authorities seem to have calculated that they would evade international scrutiny due to the Christmas holiday, so they have handed out one after another harsh sentences around this time to lesser known activists like Chen Xi and Chen Wei," said Renee Xia, international director of CHRD. "The fear factor – the government's panic over sparks of the Arab uprising – is no doubt driving the severe punishment of its critics. But suppression of views and expression will not address the root causes of social unrest." In recent years, several trials of prominent activists including Gao Zhisheng (高智晟) and Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波) were staged right around Christmas.
Today’s trial of Chen Xi lasted 2 hours and 30 minutes. The presiding judge announced the verdict at the end of the trial, citing as “evidence” writings form 36 articles that Chen Xi published on various websites. When Chen Xi and his lawyer Sun Guangquan (孙光权) presented their defense arguments during the trial, they were repeatedly interrupted by the judge. Chen Xi was not allowed to give his final statement. He told the court he was innocent. He said that, given the problems with the legal system and the uselessness of trying to follow legal procedures, he would not appeal.
When reached by CHRD, Chen Xi’s wife Zhang Qunxuan (张群选), who was allowed to attend the trial, said that the verdict had clearly been predetermined since both the lawyer’s defense arguments and Chen Xi’s statement were completely ignored by the judge; the trial was simply going through the motion.
The case of Chen Youcai (陈友才，aka Chen Xi [陈西]) shares several striking similarities with the case of Sichuan activist Chen Wei, who was tried and sentenced to 9 year three days ago, on December 23. Both Chen Wei and Chen Xi were pro-democracy activists in 1989—Chen Wei was a student protestor in Beijing while Chen Xi organized a pro-democracy group to join the protests in Guizhou, and for these activities the two were imprisoned respectively. But the two have not ceased their activism. They went on to organize political parties, and in recent years, have been at the forefront of human rights activism in Sichuan and Guizhou provinces. The fact that both were imprisoned before—Chen Wei was jailed for six years while Chen Xi spent 13 years in prison—does not bode well for them in their current trials, as repeat political “offenders” are likely to receive harsher sentences. As they are both based in provinces far away from Beijing, the national capital, their cases have so far received little international attention. Both are convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and given harsh sentences. In both trials, the “evidence” was their words or articles promoting human rights and democracy as evidence for “inciting subversion.”
Chen Xi, born in 1954, originally from Guangxi Province, was imprisoned in 1989 for 3 years for participating in the pro-democracy movement. He was imprisoned again in 1996 for 10 years for “organizing and leading counter-revolutionary group”. He was released in 2005. He was seized and arrested for “inciting subversion” on November 29, 2011. Chen Xi is a member of the Guizhou Human Rights Forum, which has been declared by the Guizhou authorities as an “illegal organization” on December 5, days prior to the Human Rights Day on December 10. His case was sent to the Guizhou Intermediate People’s Court on December 16, only five days after Chen Xi’s family received notification of his arrest. Chen Xi has been held in Guiyang City No.1 Detention Center.
Chinese activists and observers have received to the news of Chen Wei and Chen Xi’s harsh sentences with shock and disbelief. Those who are close to the trials say that the local courts in both of these cases acted with orders directly from the Central government in Beijing to hand down such long sentences.
“If the 11-year sentenced handed down to Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, in 2009 seemed rare at that time for ‘inciting subversion’ crimes, now the Chinese authorities are making such long sentences into the new norm,” said Renee Xia. “Severe punishment is the Chinese government’s clear choice of response to spreading protests at home and in many parts of the world: it is determined to ‘kill the chicken in order to frighten the monkeys’.”
BBC report on Chen Xi
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