For Immediate Release
Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that on August 4 the Xi’an Intermediate People’s Court sentenced dissident Zhao Changqing to five years in prison following a secret trial on July 10. Zhao had been charged with inciting subversion of state power on June 25 following his formal arrest on December 27.
Zhao Changqing was detained in early November as one of 192 opposition activists who signed an open letter to China’s 16th Party Congress calling for political reform. The open letter, which Zhao drafted, made six political demands, including reassessment of the 1989 democracy movement; allowing political exiles to return to China; restoring Zhao Ziyang’s political rights and releasing him from house arrest; releasing all prisoners of conscience; pushing the National People’s Congress to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and bringing domestic law into conformity with international treaties; and expanding democratic elections from the villages and municipalities to national elections.
Other dissidents arrested in relation to the open letter include Ouyang Yi in Sichuan, Dai Xuezhong, Han Lifa and Sang Jiancheng in Shanghai, He Depu in Beijing, and Jiang Lijun in Liaoning Province. The majority of those detained remain in custody.
Zhao Changqing, aged 36, studied history at Shaanxi Normal University, participated in the 1989 democracy movement, and was arrested and imprisoned for half a year after June 4. In 1997, Zhao ran for election as a local people’s representative, but after he protested the local government’s open violation of election laws he was arrested for endangering state security and sentenced for three years in prison. Following his release in March 2001 Zhang lost his job as a middle school teacher but continued to promote human rights and democratic reform. Zhao was already suffering from tuberculosis prior to his latest arrest, and his condition has deteriorated in custody.
“This harsh sentence for such reasonable and respectfully phrased demands is obviously meant as a threat to China’s pro-democracy activists,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “It is especially objectionable that a trial over an open letter was held in secret on the pretext of protecting state secrets. This trial was just another form of intimidation through an unfair legal process, from Zhao’s illegal and extended detention to the lack of notice given to his family. Any country with a genuine rule of law would reject this judgment as null and void.”
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