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Dissidents Sentenced in Unrelated Murder Trial

September 23, 2004

Sources in China have told Human Rights in China (HRIC) that two Chinese democracy activists, Kong Youping and Ning Xianhua, have been imprisoned in relation to a murder in which they had no involvement.

Informed sources told HRIC that the principal defendants in the case were Fan Zhenwen and Lü Zhengtao, residents of Niuzhuang Town, Haicheng City, Liaoning Province. On September 16 the Shenyang Intermediate People’s Court reportedly sentenced both men to death for murder. Sources indicate that Ning Xianhua and Kong Youping had originally been charged by the Shenyang Procuratorate in a separate, unrelated case. While Ning Xianhua was acquainted with Fan Zhenwen, sources state that neither he nor Kong had anything to do with the murder. However, their cases were apparently consolidated with Fan and Lü’s cases, and in its judgment on September 16 the Shenyang Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Kong and Ning to 15 and 12 years in prison, respectively.

Kong Youping was born in Liaoning Province in 1952. Although he originally worked as the union chairman at a state-owned enterprise, his support for protests by laid-off workers and his sharp criticism of government corruption and suppression led to his dismissal from both the factory and the union. In the late 1990s, a group of political dissidents, including Kong Youping, were working to establish a branch of the China Democracy Party (CDP) in Liaoning Province. Kong Youping was detained in 1999 along with fellow CDP members Wang Zechen, Wang Wenjiang and Liu Shizun, and was imprisoned for a year on charges of “incitement to subvert state power” under article 105 of the Chinese Criminal Law.

Sources familiar with Kong’s current detention state that the indictment points to evidence of politically sensitive activities such as planning the establishment of an independent union and posting articles on the Internet that criticized official corruption, called for a reassessment of the June 4th Massacre, and advocated the release of detained Internet essayist Liu Di. Sources indicate that Ning Xianhua, born in Shenyang Province in 1961, was indicted on similar charges, accused of serving as the vice-chairman of CDP’s Liaoning branch. Sources state that the indictment also accuses Ning of providing information to people outside of China from 2001 to 2003, and accepting financial support from abroad. The indictment accuses Ning and Kong of inciting discontent and encouraging the overthrow of the Chinese government.

Sources familiar with the relevant indictment state that it attempts to tie the murder suspects to the political dissidents by vaguely asserting that Fan Zhenwen had been a member of the CDP at one time.

“The use of a political association as a means of drawing unrelated individuals into a murder charge suggests immense procedural irregularities and misuse of the Chinese Criminal Procedure Law in order to target political activists,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “If the indictments against Kong and Ning do not indicate involvement in the murder case, there should be a reexamination of their trial to ensure that facts and procedure have not been manipulated simply to target political dissidents. The two dissidents’ activities in Shenyang are within the bounds of lawful human rights activities under international standards, and they do not exceed the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association protected in China’s own constitution.” HRIC calls for a reassessment of Kong and Ning’s trials and a judgment of their cases based solely on the basis of their actual activities in the context of international rights and freedoms.