Updates on endangering state security cases

Amid a heated international dispute that has pitted China against Canada and the United States, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate formally charged Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor for “secretly gathering state secrets or intelligence for foreign organization or personnel” on June 19, 2020. Analysts have described their detention as China’s hostage diplomacy in retaliation for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a US warrant. China has suspended consular visits since January 2020 over the coronavirus pandemic. 

After the trial was first held behind closed doors over a year ago, the Xuzhou Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Yu Wensheng (余文生) to four years in prison and three years’ deprivation of political rights (DPR) for inciting subversion on June 17. Yu gained fame as a rights lawyer for defending religious and political dissidents, including other lawyers who were detained during the “709 crackdown,” such as Wang Quanzhang (王全璋). Yu was initially detained on January 20, 2018 for disrupting public services, after he wrote an open letter calling for constitutional reforms and the impeachment of Xi Jinping. He is due for release in 2022. At the time of writing, his wife Xu Yan (许艳) has yet to receive a copy of Yu’s judgment. She has not been notified as to where her husband is incarcerated. 

Also in Jiangsu, Ge Jueping (戈觉平) was sentenced by the Suzhou Intermediate People’s Court to four years and six months’ imprisonment with three years’ DPR on June 18 for inciting subversion. Ge was among a group of activists who publicly protested what they felt was the court’s mishandling of the case of Fan Mugen (范木根). Fan was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment for aggravated assault in 2015 for allegedly killing two demolition crews who assaulted his family members during a forced eviction. The court accused Ge of hyping up sensitive cases, with the aim to “deceive people into thinking” that there are miscarriages of justice and confrontations between the government and people. His acts were said to have intended to “gradually erode and dissolve” the power base of the Chinese Communist Party among people. 

Dui Hua’s research into court websites discovered a court notice concerning an obscure case of subversion involving three individuals: Li Shouhua (李守铧), Zhang Xin (张欣), and Jiang Wengang (蒋文刚) stood trial at the Ji’nan Intermediate People’s Court on June 11, 2020. The trial outcome and case details are unknown. 

Unofficial news media sources reported two other cases of inciting subversion during the reporting period. The reasons for their detention are not immediately obvious. Zhang Guiqi (张桂祺), also known as Lu Yang (鲁扬), was formally arrested for inciting subversion on June 18. Zhang is a signatory of Charter 08 written by Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo. He is currently incarcerated in the Chiping County Detention Center. Wang Yuwen (王玉文), also known as Wang Zang (王藏), was detained on May 30.  

Crackdown on dissidents with non-ESS crimes  

Cases with political relevance have increasingly been obscured under the catch-all crime of picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” A Tibetan environmental activist joined the ranks of political prisoners under this crime during this reporting period. On June 17, 2020, the Guoluo Prefecture Intermediate People’s Court upheld the judgment of Anya Sengdra (阿亚桑扎), who was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for “picking quarrels” and gathering a crowd to disturb social order in December 2019. Sengdra campaigned against government corruption and environmental destruction caused by mining activities and hunting of protected wildlife. Nine other defendants were also sentenced to around two years’ imprisonment in the same case. Sengdra is due for release in 2025. 

On April 30, 2020, a local court in Hunan sentenced former journalist Chen Jieren (陈杰人) to 15 years’ imprisonment for “picking quarrels” and multiple economic crimes stemming from thousands of critical commentaries and investigative reports he posted on social media. The court alleged that Chen used the internet to disseminate false or negative information, maliciously exaggerate certain mass incidents, and vilify the Chinese Communist Party. Also convicted in the same case was his brother Chen Weiren (陈伟人), who received a four-year prison sentence. His colleague Liu Min (刘敏) was exempted from criminal punishment for the sole crime of “picking quarrels.”  

The judgment mentioned four other defendants who were dealt with in a separate case: Ai Qunhui (艾群辉)Deng Jiangxiu (邓江秀), Li Changmao (李长茂), and Liu Liqun (刘利群). Their statuses are unclear. Chen Minren (陈敏人) has been criminally detained over the same charges as his brother Chen Jieren since July 2018.  

On March 31, Qi Yiyuan (祁怡元) and Zhang Pancheng (张盼成) were sentenced to 24 months and 18 months’ imprisonment, respectively, in Beijing for “picking quarrels.” The duo, who are in their twenties, made videos critical of Xi. Qi posted a video of himself with “anti-Xi” and “anti-Communist Party” slogans and called for freedom of expression, the release of rights lawyers, and the reinstatement of rights lawyers who were stripped of their licenses. In a separate video, Zhang called for the release of Dong Yaoqiong (瑶琼), who was sent to a psychiatric hospital for splashing ink on a poster of Xi in July 2018, Yue Xin (岳昕), a vocal supporter of the Jasic worker strike in the summer of 2018, and over a million Uyghurs who are allegedly held in facilities officially referred to as vocational training centers. 

Notable releases

Despite a drop in new cases, COVID-19 continues to affect inmates, including those who were jailed for exercising free speech. Prominent rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) completed his four years and six months’ sentence for subversion on April 5, 2020 but was prevented from immediately reuniting with his family in Beijing. Wang, who has repeatedly tested negative for COVID-19, was forced into a 14-day quarantine in his hometown Ji’nan, Shandong. Wang’s return to Beijing on April 27 marked the long overdue family union. 

Veteran dissident Liu Xianbing (刘贤斌) was released from Chuanzhong Prison on June 27, after serving full 10 years’ imprisonment without a sentence reduction. On March 25, 2011, the Suining Intermediate People’s Court convicted Liu of inciting subversion for writing articles about forming an opposition organization. Liu has served over 20 years in prison for participating in the Tiananmen protests and subsequently joining the banned China Democracy Party.