Zhu Chengzhi (朱承志)’s offense has to do with the death of Li Wangyang (李旺阳), a labor movement leader during the June 4th movement in 1989 who had served two prison terms totaling 21 years. In the morning of June 6th this year, while receiving treatment for heart disease and diabetes in a local hospital in Shaoyang, Hunan (湖南邵阳), Li Wangyang was found hanged from a window frame by a strip of bed sheet.
The 62-year-old Zhu Chengzhi is a retiree-turned-activist in Shaoyang and an old schoolmate and close friend of Li Wangyang. In the next two days following Li’s death, Zhu Chengzhi took pictures, shot video, of the death scene, and published them online. Meanwhile, he provided updates on Twitter and called frantically for legal assistance to deal with local authorities who tried to thwart the efforts to find truth about Li’s death.
On June 8th, Zhu Chengzhi was taken into police custody for “public order violations” (治安拘留). Shortly afterwards, he was arrested for allegedly “inciting subversion of state power,” as a signature campaign, initiated by three overseas Chinese, gathered thousands of names and vigil and protests were held in Hong Kong.
Zhu Chengzhi had since been detained. Over the past 200+ days, his wife was so threatened, and terrified, by security police that she severed all connections with lawyers and activists who tried to help. Lately there had been rumors that Zhu Chengzhi would be freed on December 25. But instead, on Christmas Day, his case was sent to the prosecutors for possible indictment. And all he had done was to publish news, pictures and a video about the suspicious death of his friend.
According to the Notice of Investigation and Indictment Period by the local Procuratorate, the prosecutors will have one month to review Zhu Chengzhi’s “case” and decide on whether to indict him. Zhu Chengzhi’s lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan doesn’t believe the prosecutors have a case, but then again, in China, they don’t need to have a case to indict, try, and sentence someone.
A laid-off employee of a state-owned enterprise some years ago, Zhu Chengzhi and others contracted a manganese mine in Yunnan. Later he became a petitioner against a court ruling about a dispute among the main shareholders. In Beijing, he met with other petitioners, befriended activists, and gave financial support to a young, disabled migrant. He got involved in others’ cases, and became a rights activist trying not just to defend his own rights but to change the society for the better.
In recent years China has shown a mean pattern of making moves against political “criminals” on Christmas Day or around it so as to attract least attention from the media and public on holiday vacation. Three years ago on Christmas Day, Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in prison. Last year, Chen Wei (陈卫) in Sichuan was sentenced to 9 years in prison on December 23rd, and then on December 26th Chen Xi (陈西) in Guizhou was sentenced to 10 years in prison, both for “inciting to subvert state power.” Also in December last year, Gao Zhisheng (高智晟) was “returned to jail” for violating probation rules when he had not been disappeared for months and years on end. We have never heard about him anymore since last March when it was reported that his brother and relatives were granted a 30-minite visit.