China sentences third activist in trials following national crackdown

A court in northern China's city of Tianjin gave an activist a three-year suspended prison sentence for "subverting state power" on Friday.

Gou Hongguo pled guilty to the charges and said he would not appeal, the Tianjin No 2 Intermediate People's Court said in a statement.

The 55-year-old was detained last July in a campaign that specifically targeted human rights lawyers and activists in China.

In 2013 he began voicing his concerns on the internet over rights violations suffered by marginalized groups, according to the Chinese Human Rights Defenders organization.

Gou is the third activist to be sentenced this week by the Tianjin court on the same charge. 

According to court statements, Gou was an associate of Hu Shigen, a long-time activist, who was jailed for seven-and-a-half-years on Wednesday. 

Following his arrest, Gou told authorities that he heard human rights lawyers talking last year at a restaurant about "how to oppose the Party and the socialist system," according to the official Xinhua news agency.

One of the lawyers at the meeting, Zhou Shifeng, was a former director of the prominent Fengrui law firm in Beijing, which took on politically sensitive cases. He was sentenced on Thursday to seven years in prison for subverting state power. 

"They've been actively wooing me and want to use us to challenge court hearings and China's entire judicial system, making trouble for the Chinese government," Gou allegedly confessed, referring to Zhou and his colleagues. 

"According to what's described in the trial record this morning, it looks like Gou was pressured to put the responsibility on Hu and Zhou," Amnesty International China researcher Patrick Poon told dpa. "This could [explain] why he was given a comparatively lenient sentence."

"All in all, Gou's and the other three's trials are typical political trials in China. Not informing family, not allowing family to attend, quick trial and sentencing," Poon said.

The US Congressional Executive Commission on China has condemned the proceedings, saying in a statement that the "forced confessions and show trials ... damage the Chinese government's global-standing and obliterates any remaining confidence in President Xi's ability to foster the rule of law."

Chinese authorities barred foreign media from entering the court in Tianjin. 

Of the more than 300 human rights lawyers and activists who have been detained or summoned by police since last year, 16 are believed to still be in jail, according to Amnesty. 

It is unclear if trials of other lawyers and activists will continue next week. 

Last update: Fri, 05/08/2016 - 12:38

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