China: Activist Hu Shigen jailed for 'subversion'

Shigen is the second person sentenced in two days as part of an ongoing crackdown on legal activism.

    A court in China has sentenced an activist to seven and a half years in prison for "subverting state power" on Wednesday, in the second known trial following the arrests of hundreds of human rights lawyers and activists.

    State broadcaster CCTV said on Wednesday that Hu Shigen had pleaded guilty to "subversion, damaging national security and harming social stability" at the start of his hearing before the Tianjin No 2 Intermediate People's Court in the city of Tianjin.

    It said he had decided not to appeal against the sentence.

    "He completed a 14-year jail sentence only six years ago for counter-revolutionary crimes. Now he’s facing seven and a half years in jail," Al Jazeera's Adrian Brown, reporting from Tianjin, said.

    Shigen, 61, was accused of leading an "underground organisation that masqueraded as a church" and attempting to "overthrow the government", Brown said.

    READ MORE: Where are China's human rights lawyers?

    "He was part of a law firm that used to deal with pretty sensitive human rights cases, helping people who faced demolitions or land seizures, or even religious issues."

    Shigen's brief trial came a day after the court handed a suspended three-year sentence to another activist, Zhai Yanmin.

    Both were arrested in July last year with two others as part of a nationwide crackdown on legal rights activists. About 300 lawyers and activists were initially questioned before most were released.

    Shigen, and two colleagues set to be tried in court later this week, were accused of organising "activities that manipulated public opinion and disturbed public order," prosecutors were quoted as saying by state media.

    "[Shigen's] ideology and his behaviours have seriously harmed the country and social stability," prosecutors reportedly said.

    'Dissent not tolerated'

    Hu had been sentenced in 1994 to 20 years in prison on the now-abolished charge of "counter-revolution" in connection with his political activities, but was released in 2008 after his sentence was reduced.

    His previous prison term contributed to his harsh sentencing in the most recent case, prosecutors said.

    "After completing his criminal punishment, Hu Shigen again committed crimes against national security and, as a recidivist, should be severely punished under the law," prosecutors said.

    A graduate of the prestigious Peking University, Hu was a professor in the capital when he became active with a would-be political opposition party following the army's violent crackdown on 1989 pro-democracy protests centred on Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

     READ MORE: China lawyer's sentence suspended in surprise verdict

    Two other cases are expected to be heard this week by the court in the northern Chinese city, including those of activist Gou Hongguo and lawyer Zhou Shifeng, head of the Fengrui law firm that frequently took on sensitive cases and represented numerous government critics.

    More than a dozen other lawyers and activists remain in detention, their legal status uncertain.

    "This campaign [of arrests] began not long after President Jinping came to power. He’s made it quite clear that he’s not going to tolerate dissent of any kind," said Al Jazeera's Brown.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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