Chinese human rights activist given 3-year suspended sentence | News | DW | 06.08.2016
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Chinese human rights activist given 3-year suspended sentence

A Chinese human rights activist has been given a three-year suspended prison sentence for subversion. Chinese authorities are cracking down hard on dissent, with four such trials this week alone.

The Christian activist Gou Hongguo had gone abroad to be trained in "subverting state power," the Second Intermediate People's Court in the city of Tianjin in northern China ruled on Friday.

Hongguo had also sought to turn public opinion against the government and had attempted to overthrow the socialist system, the court heard before handing down the three-year suspended sentence.

The Chinese Communist Party has been clamping down on dissent and seeking to revamp its socialist message via tighter central control over social media and purges in the party's propaganda departments.

Gou Hongguo, a 54-year-old associate of the Beijing Fengrui law firm, pleaded guilty and said he would not appeal the sentence, the official Xinhua news agency said, although reports have suggested it's not clear whether he will be released.

Gou had been protesting against forced evictions and was one of over 200 detained activists and lawyers involved in cases the Communist Party considers sensitive.

Charges 'vague, politically motivated'

Gou's trial was the fourth at the Tianjin court this week and followed that of high-profile rights lawyer Zhou Shifeng, whose Fengrui law firm has been at the center of the recent so-called 709 crackdown.

"Just because people are released doesn't necessarily mean they will be completely free in China, where they can for example be released to a detention center," Kit Chen, executive director of the China Human Rights Lawyer Concern Group, told news agency AFP.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the charges were "vague and apparently politically motivated" and called on officials to release the remaining detainees.

The EU meanwhile said the trials were "contrary to Chinese and international law" and called for the activists to be released.

jbh/cmk (AFP, Reuters)