In the first week of August 2016, the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People's Court tried and convicted one rights lawyer and three activists of “subversion of state power.” They were Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民), a law firm employee; Hu Shigen (胡石根), a democracy and religious freedom activist; Zhou Shifeng (周世鋒), a lawyer and law firm director; and Gou Hongguo (勾洪国), a rights activist.
Although Chinese law specifies punishment for the crime of “subversion of state power” (颠覆国家政权罪), it does not define the acts that constitute the crime:
Among those who organize, plot or carry out the scheme of subverting the State power or overthrowing the socialist system, the ringleaders and the others who commit major crimes shall be sentenced to life imprisonment or fixed-term imprisonment of not less than 10 years . . . . (Criminal Law, art 105(1))
But as these trials unfolded, “edited transcripts” released by the official Xinhua News Agency provided a glimpse of what the prosecution and the court considered to be acts of “subversion”: these acts can be no more than a discussion over lunch about social change and about how lawyers can help defend the rights of workers.
(From the trial transcript of Hu Shigen)
2) On February 1, 2015, defendant Hu Shigen went to a lunch gathering attended by 15 people, including Zhou Shifeng, Li Heping, and Zhai Yanmin at Qiweishao restaurant in Chaoyang District, Beijing, at which they discussed topics revolved around “how lawyers might get involved in the labor movement” and “how lawyers can get involved in sensitive case incidents,” etc. Hu Shigen put forward three major elements for the transformation of the state: “a strengthened citizenry, a split within the ruling party, and the intervention of international society,” along with the five major programs for the construction of a future state: “transformation, nation-building, people’s livelihoods, remuneration, and punishment,” and actively planned for the subversion of state power.
. . .
This court holds that defendant Hu Shigen organized, planned, and carried out subversion of state power and overthrowing of the socialist system, and his actions violated article 105(1) of the Criminal Law . . . .
HRIC has selected, annotated, and translated excerpts from the official “edited transcripts” in order to provide English readers with a closer view of an episode in a judicial process where the exercise of fundamental rights of citizens, protected by the Chinese Constitution and international law, may be judged to be serious crimes. The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China states that citizens of the PRC “enjoy freedom of speech, . . . of assembly, of association” (art. 35), rights that are enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As a signatory to the Covenant, China has the obligation to act in good faith and not defeat the purpose of the ICCPR by undermining such rights.
Subversion of state power
Inciting subversion of state power
Gathering a crowd to disturb public order
Picking quarrels and provoking trouble
Organizing people to secretly cross national borders