On December 23, the Suining Municipal Intermediate People’s Court of Sichuan Province convicted democracy activist Chen Wei (陈卫) of “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced him to nine years in prison and two years’ post-release deprivation of political rights. The verdict, which was read in the court but not delivered in written form, calls Chen a “repeated offender” whose “crime was heinous, and influence vile” (罪行重大，影响恶劣). Chen’s sentence is the third heaviest given to a democracy activist in recent years convicted of the same charge, following the 11 years given to the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波) in December 2009, and the ten years to Liu Xianbin (刘贤斌) in March 2011.
Chen was detained in February 2011 and formally arrested in March. The indictment cited as evidence of his crime essays he published on overseas websites between March 2009 and January 2011.
The trial lasted less than two hours. Chen was brought into the courtroom handcuffed, where his wife, Wang Xiaoyang (王晓燕), and sister and brother were present. Defense lawyers Zeng Jianwei (郑建伟) and Liang Xiaojun (梁晓军) presented defense arguments but were interrupted multiple times by the judge. Similarly, the judge interrupted Chen when he presented his defense statement, and then ordered Chen removed from the courtroom, thus also preventing him from making his final statement. When Chen was taken away, he yelled, “Innocent! Constitutional democracy will prevail! Dictatorship will perish!”
After the trial, Chen’s wife, Wang Xiaoyan, angrily stated, “The whole trial was based on trumped up charges, in which right and wrong were mixed-up and the truth obliterated; this is the so-called freedom of expression with Chinese-characteristics.”
Many of Chen’s friends and fellow human rights activists traveling from different parts of China to attend the trial were detained and kept under surveillance by police. They included: Ouyang Yi (欧阳懿), Duan Qixian (端启宪), Zhang Wei (张维), Chen Yunfei (陈云飞), Huang Xiaomin (黄晓敏), and Lu Gang (卢刚).
This is the third prison term for Chen Wei. He served his first prison sentence in the Qincheng Prison in Beijing for participating in the 1989 Democracy Movement and was released in December 1990. In 1992, he was sentenced to five years for organizing activist gropus that included the Chinese Liberal Democracy Party, Chinese Alliance for Progress, Free Union, China Democratic Union, and for planning a June Fourth commemoration event.
Under Chinese criminal law, “inciting subversion of state power” usually results in a maximum of five years’ imprisonment, with lengthier sentences given only to individuals deemed to be the ringleader of a crime or whose criminal conduct is especially “heinous.” According to domestic observers, authorities, fearing protest activities in different parts of China, are using Chen’s sentence as a deterrent.
Another the rights activist recently arrested for publishing essays online is Guizhou rights activist Chen Xi (陈西), a key organizer of the Guizhou Human Rights Symposium. Chen, detained on November 29 and formally arrested on December 11, 2011, is charged with endangering state security and is expected to receive a heavy sentence.
For more information on Chen Wei, see: