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The Schellenberg Affair: Chinese Lawyers and Law Professors Opposing Court’s Handling of Robert Schellenberg’s Case

China Change, January 16, 2019

On January 14, a court in Dalian, northeastern China, sentenced Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to death for drug smuggling at a one-day retrial. It appears that China, after detaining two Canadians recently, is escalating the diplomatic clash with Canada over the arrest  of Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟), Huawei CFO, which the US requested pursuant to its extradition treaty with Canada, to the United States for suspected violation of Iran sanctions. The bizarre re-sentencing of Schellenberg seems to indicate how far China is willing to go to pressure Canada for the release of Meng, and how it is betting on Canada to give in by using the Schellenberg case as further leverage. To help clarify the legal controversy surrounding the retrial of Schellenberg, China Change gathered and translated the views of Schellenberg’s defense attorneys and several other Chinese lawyers and law professors who opposed the re-sentencing. As for opinions supporting the Chinese court’s decision, you can find them in China’s state media such as the Global Times and China Daily. — The Editors

Lawyer Ma Gangquan (马纲权) — A death sentence handed down with mysterious haste, January 16, Beijing Time, WeChat post:

1. It took about four years from Schellenberg’s detention  to his being sentenced to 15 years in prison by the e court of first instance.

Schellenberg was apprehended on December 1, 2014, and his case was heard by the Dalian Municipal Intermediate People’s Court i (大连市中级人民法院) on March 15, 2016. On November 20, 2018, at the court of first instance, he was found him guilty of trafficking illicit drugs. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison to be followed by expulsion from China, as well as a fine of 150,000 RMB. Schellenberg appealed the sentence. 

2. The time it took for the case to be returned to the first-instance court with supplemental prosecution  was just four days.

On December 29, during the review of Schellenberg’s case, the Liaoning High People’s Court (辽宁省高级人民法院) ruled that the original sentence was overly lenient and “obviously inappropriate” [in consideration of the crime], and sent the case back to the Dalian Intermediate Court for retrial.

On January 2, 2019, the Dalian Municipal Procuratorate (大连市检察院) submitted a supplementary indictment to the Dalian Intermediate Court.

3. On January 14, 2019, the Dalian Intermediate Court began the retrial at 8 a.m., with proceedings lasting until around 7 p.m., at which time the court adjourned for one hour. After  the collegial panel deliberated and submitted its decision to the adjudication committee for discussion, at around 8 p.m. the court resumed the hearing, at which time it, it announced Schellenberg’s death sentence. This was all done in less than a day, deftly and expediently.

Lawyer Zhang Dongshuo (张冬硕), Schellenberg’s defense attorney, January 15, 2019, Chinese-language interview with Deutsche Welle

DW: Robert Lloyd Schellenberg’s case was retried and a new verdict was announced in no more than 15 days. What is your view on this?

Zhang: This is indeed a very unusual situation — though the proceeding is in accordance with the law. But it is indeed quite unusual for a case involving the death penalty to finish in just 15 days from court proceedings to delivering the sentence.

DW: In increasing the sentence from a 15-year prison term to death, do you think that this verdict was made fairly and in accordance with the evidence?

Zhang: I can’t comment on whether or not it was fair. I can only say that in my view as a defense lawyer, the evidence available is insufficient to prove that Schellenberger engaged in smuggling of more than 222 kilograms of drugs in Dalian. This is the first point. Second, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that he participated in organized international drug trafficking. Third, the prosecution provided no new facts in its supplementary indictment about the alleged crime. Therefore, even if the charges are accepted by the court, they cannot be used to increase the severity of Schellenberg’s sentence. These are my three main arguments. But it is regrettable that the court completely disregarded the arguments of the defense.

DW: What remains now is for the case to be appealed, correct?

Schellenberg has the right of appeal. Only after he files an appeal — we have two lawyers, I am the primary defense attorney, and Zhong Qiang (钟强) is the secondary defense attorney — will we continue to defend him during the appeal period. I guess that he will formally file an appeal in the middle of next week.

[Note: Zhang Dongshuo is a lawyer with the Mo Shaoping Law Firm in Beijing; Zhong Qiang is senior partner of the Beijing Yingke (Nanning) Law Firm, Director of Criminal Legal Affairs Department, and Vice Chairman of the Drug Crime Defense Alliance.]

Lawyer Mo Shaoping (莫少平) — interview with Voice of America, January 16, 2019, Beijing time:

Mo Shaoping: As defense lawyers, we pleaded not guilty on his behalf. I believe that the evidence provided by the prosecution does not exclude all reasonable doubt, so he should be acquitted. However, the court did not accept this argument and claimed that there were so-called new criminal facts submitted. The defense attorneys believe that the so-called new criminal facts provided in the supplementary indictment are wholly nonexistent. However, if the prosecution did not supplement the indictment, the court would definitely not have issued a death sentence. Therefore, the so-called new criminal facts were meant to take advantage of the procedure of supplementary indictment and retrial to increase the severity of the crime, and warrant the death penalty.

Reporter: How did Schellenberg react to [the announcement of the verdict] in court?

Mo Shaoping: From beginning to end, Schellenberg denied the charges against him. He denied them then and denies them now. He says that his purpose for travelling to Dalian was purely for tourism, and has no knowledge of drugs. However, the witness Xu Qing (许清), who later appeared in court, may have indeed been involved in the crime. But the authorities considered him to be a witness, rather than a suspect. As attorneys we suspected that at one time this person may have been a public security agent. Later, the public security [Chinese police] produced evidence to show that he wasn’t their agent. So the facts regarding this case were unclear and inconclusive from the start. The evidence as provided could hardly substantiate the charge that Schellenberg was involved in drug smuggling activities.

Reporter: The court didn’t accept your arguments?

Mo Shaoping: It didn’t, the court issued the death penalty. We have never seen any precedent for this case, in which the death penalty was announced at the hearing. Usually, death sentences are announced on a later date after court has been adjourned and the adjudication committee has deliberated. I’ve never seen a case where the death penalty was announced right after the conclusion of the trial. It’s unprecedented. 

Reporter:Many people have linked this matter to the case of Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟). Do you think there was a political motivation in Schellenberg’s sentencing?

Mo Shaoping: I will leave the analysis to journalists. Schellenberg was held for more than four years, and the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court made a first-instance judgment and sentenced him to 15 years. Why did it take four years to sentence him? Because the court thought that the evidence was insufficient and sought instructions all the way up to the Supreme People’s Court (SPC). The SPC said Schellenberg could be convicted and the sentence should be 15 years. So Schellenberg was sentenced to 15 years in prison according to the SPC’s instructions, and he was also considered an accomplice.

As a general rule, after an appeal is filed, the court of second instance will not hold a court hearing; instead, the court rules just based on the written documents in the case. It’s very unusual that a second-instance court would suddenly hold a hearing, and then suddenly remand the case for retrial. It took the Dalian Procuratorate only one day to produce and submit the so-called supplementary indictment to the court after the retrial order had been made. Just 16 days later the court tried Schellenberg again and announced the death penalty right after the trial. Everything about the proceeding was unusual.

Chen Youxi’s comment on Weibo

Lawyer Chen Youxi (陈有西), January 15, 2019, Beijing time, Sina Weibo:

It is clearly stipulated in law that there is to be no increase in punishment when a case is sent back for retrial. Without new facts or new evidence, there cannot be an additional penalty. If a new crime is discovered, after the original sentence has taken effect and the case remanded, then the new criminal facts should be re-indicted in accordance with the adjudication supervision procedures. Increasing the penalty on remand is not permitted, so as not to deter the defendant from appealing.

Article 237 of the PRC Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) stipulates that second instance people’s courts handling appeals submitted by the defendant, his legal representative, defender, or close relatives, must not increase the defendant’s punishment. Cases that second instance courts remand to first instance courts for retrial, except when there are the new criminal facts and the people’s procuratorate provides a supplemental indictment, the original people’s court must also not increase the defendant’s penalty. In instances in which the people’s procuratorate lodges an appeal or where there is a private prosecution appeal, the aforementioned restrictions do not apply. 

Per the Interpretation of the Supreme People’s Court on the Application of the PRC Criminal Procedure Law, Article 327:  After the defendant, or his legal representative or defender, or a close relative, files an appeal, and the second instance people’s court remands the case for retrial, except in cases where there are new criminal facts and the people’s procuratorate files a supplementary indictment, the original people’s court must not increase the defendant’s penalty.

Article 257 (5) of the Supreme People’s Court’s Interpretation of Several Issues Concerning the Implementation of the PRC Criminal Procedure Law provides: “… in the case where a change in the original sentence must be done according to law, the case shall be retried according to the adjudication supervision procedures after the second instance judgment or ruling becomes effective.”

When courts of second instance send various cases back for retrial on the grounds of unclear facts and insufficient evidence, purporting they have a new understanding of circumstances that were already discovered during the original trial, and result in supplemental prosecutions and an additional penalty for the defendant through retrial by the court of first instance, it is a disguised violation of the principle of “appeal without increased penalty.” The result is that the appeal system will inevitably be damaged the defendant’s right of appeal will be impaired and constrained; the second-instance final appeal review and correction mechanism will be forfeited.

There’s no way around this. Regardless of the case, it is very easy to find a few pages of new evidence, and have a new understanding of the details of the case. As long as a judge is allowed to remand a case with supplemental charges, a reason could be found in any case to support a sentence increase. Accordingly, defendants would not dare to appeal. The system of China’s second-instance final review would be fundamentally destroyed.

He Weifang (贺卫方), law professor at Peking University, January 15, 2019,Beijing time, WeChat: 

The Canadian named Schellenberg was sentenced to 15 years in prison by the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court on November 20, 2018 after being detained for more than four years. In addition, the court confiscated 150,000 yuan of his assets and ordered his deportation. He insisted that he was not guilty, and filed an appeal.

It really was a strange coincidence that just at this point in time, in early December, the Canadian police arrested a high level Chinese business executive named Meng [Wanzhou] based on the extradition treaty between the United States and Canada. This move triggered an angry protest from China, which threatened Canada, telling Canada it would pay for what it had done.

Soon after, on December 29, the Schellenberg appeal was heard in the Liaoning High People’s Court.  It is worth noting that the procuratorate did not file a protest after the trial in the court of first instance, but this did not prevent the High Court from remanding the case to the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court for retrial. Meanwhile, the New Year’s holiday intervened, and so it was on January 14, 2019, in less than ten work days, the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court unexpectedly and, in lightning speed, tried the case, and in a shocking move, changed the defendant’s sentence to the death penalty, and confiscated all his assets.

Some people have asked: Doesn’t China’s Criminal Procedure Law stipulate the norm of  “appeal without an increase in penalty”? A local scholar who attended the retrial responded that the rule prohibiting an increase in penalty does not include cases in which the procuratorate discovers and raises new criminal facts after the defendant appealed, or cases in which the procuratorate did not lodge a protest.

However, as a result, as long as the defendant files an appeal, the procuratorate can counter-appeal on the grounds of having discovered certain new criminal facts or just communicate with the court to exert some pressure (which is very easy for the procuratorate to do in China), which will inevitably lead to the complete failure of the principle

“appeal without an increase in penalty.”  As long as the defendant refuses to accept the original judgment and appeals, all that awaits the defendant is the procuratorate’s protest (even a protest is not actually necessary) and a subsequent increase in punishment. So who would dare to appeal?

Furthermore, now that the procuratorate produced new facts so quickly in such a short period of time  after the first instance trial, one wonders why they didn’t discover these facts during the four years of Schellenberg’s detention, facts that have caused the outcome of the case to change so drastically? Even though the PRC’s Criminal Procedure Law does not have the “double jeopardy” clause that prohibits anyone from being prosecuted twice for substantially the same crime, we have reasons to expect that the procuratorate had learned all the facts and made all the preparation before the first trial, given that the investigation had gone on for four years and had been through all sorts of pretrial procedures. How could it be that as soon as the defendant appealed, the procuratorate “discovered new facts” and that the defendant changed from being an accomplice to the principal culprit? Isn’t that just bizarre?

In this country, administrative officials can make wrong decisions and diplomats can blatantly lie, but if judicial organs also take part in such a farce, succumbing to external interference and treating the law like a toy, that’s really a despairing and perilous situation.

He Weifang and Zhang Jianwei’s comments on WeChat.

Zhang Jianwei (张建伟), law professor at Tsinghua University, January 15, 2019, Beijing time, WeChat:

In the case of supplementary indictment, the court could alter the sentence and increase the penalty. Here, supplementary indictment should be understood to mean that the supplemental crimes are crimes in addition to what has already been tried; if the prosecutors supplemented certain facts that fall within the criminal facts that have already been tried in the first instance but may affect the penalty decision, it is still a violation of the principle of no increase of sentence on appeal.

The thinking behind the principle of no increase of sentence on appeal is to allay the defendant’s fear of a worse outcome on appeal. In Schellenberg’s case it was the defendant who appealed, and increasing the penalty through spurious reasons is a violation of the principle of no increase of sentence on appeal.

At the moment when China and Canada is locked in a diplomatic row, such a judicial re-sentencing rouses the suspicion that the judiciary in China is merely a servant of politics, and it hurts the international perception of China being a country governed according to the law. As such, there is more to be lost than gained. You may think you are doing good for the country, but you are in fact ruining it.

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Written Appeal on Behalf of Wu Gan

January 10, 2018

 

Since 2009 Wu Gan has arguably been the best known, and certainly the most recognizable, activist in China for his bold and innovative tactics. Wu Gan was arrested on May 19, 2015, and looking back, he was in fact the first detainee of what became the 709 Crackdown. As with all other 709 detainees, he was held in secret detention for months, where he was tortured. He was tried behind closed doors on August 15, 2017, without a verdict. On December 26, the court sentenced him to eight years in prison for “subverting state power.” The evidence against him were 12 occasions where he had campaigned, in his colorful style, to correct injustice in one form or another. According to his lawyer, Wu Gan rejected a deal with the authorities which would have given him a suspended sentence if he were to admit guilt. Following Wu Gan’s sentence, his defending counsel filed the following appeal. — The Editors

 

Wu Gan_黑透了

 

Appellant: Wu Gan (吴淦). Male. Han ethnicity. DOB: February 14, 1972. Place of birth: Fuqing city, Fujian Province. Citizen ID: 3502061972XXXX2033. Senior high school education. Administrative officer at the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm (北京锋锐律师事务所). Currently being held at the Tianjin No. 2 Detention Center (天津市第二看守所).

Defending counsel: Ge Yongxi (葛永喜), Guangdong Anguo Law Firm (广东安国律师事务所); Yan Xin (燕薪), Beijing Laishuo Law Firm (北京来硕律师事务所)

The appellant lodges this appeal to overturn the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court’s (2016) Criminal Judgement No. 146

Appeal request: Vacate the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court’s (2016) Criminal Judgement No. 146 and render a judgement of not guilty.

Facts and Grounds:

i. Subjective Factors

Although the appellant “in court acknowledged his thoughts of subverting state power,” and expressed a wish to endeavour toward this end, thought does not constitute criminal conduct. If the verbal expressions of the appellant are sufficient to constitute a crime, it should also be considered that the appellant in court also said: “subverting state power is the legitimate right of the citizen; subversion of state power shouldn’t even be a crime in the first place.” In the mind of the appellant, he is simply exercising his right to subvert state power — and so what crime has he committed?

ii. Objective Factors

When rendering judgement on whether an individual’s conduct is criminal, it is vital to examine the character of their actions. The actions of the appellant — whether speech made via Weibo, WeChat, Twitter, his three “Guides,” interviews given to foreign media, or audio lectures — all fall under the rubric of legitimate exercise of freedom of speech. Similarly, the appellant’s participation in 12 noted cases — which involved ‘stand-and-watch’ protests, appealing in support of a cause, raising funds, or expressing himself via performance art — are also all exercises in freedom of expression, provided for in his civil rights of: the right to criticize and make suggestions; the right to lodge appeals and complaints; the right to report and expose malfeasance, and so on. These rights are innate, and are provided for in the constitution and law of the People’s Republic of China. The exercise of these rights has nothing at all to do with so-called subversion of state power. Even less are the appellant’s actions implicated in any form of attack on the state regime or the national system of government established in the constitution.

iii. The Object of the Crime

The concept of the “state power” is a macro structure, and refers specifically to the actual rule of the central authority. Local political authorities, local judicial organs, and individual administrative or judicial officials, are not identical with the “state power.” Questioning, criticizing, reporting misconduct, and bringing complaints against local political and judicial organs or individual officials does not constitute an attempt to harm the state power.

iv. Considerations of Harm to Society

All speech acts by the appellant, as well as his participation in the 12 cases, did not cause the harm to society that is required in criminal law for the acts to constitute crimes. Not only did the speech acts not cause any harm at all to society, but they inspired a sense of citizenship and rights consciousness in members of the public, as well as effectively exercising supervision over the work of local governmental and judicial organs, thus causing injustices to be righted. What greater contribution to the public welfare could there be?

v. Regarding the Crime of ‘Subverting State Power’ Itself

    a. What Is the State Power in Question?

“State power” can be defined in both narrow and broad senses. The broader definition would refer to the manner in which state power is expressed in political sovereignty at the level of a nation with defined geographical boundaries. This encompasses all of the authority of a state, including the tripartite legislative, administrative, and judicial powers. The meaning of “state power” under this definition is simply a concrete manifestation of political sovereignty.

The narrow definition of state power refers to the central or federal administrative branch of government within the framework of a national polity.

     b. Who Can Subvert the Sovereignty of the People?

In the current era, nation states are countries under the sovereignty of the people. The second article in the constitution of the People’s Republic of China stipulates: “All power in the People’s Republic of China belongs to the people.” This sentence sufficiently demonstrates that state power in China has to be established on the basis of popular sovereignty. Given that sovereignty belongs to the people, then of course the people have the right to subvert the regime. It is simply a matter of the methods used: whether peaceful elections, non-violent revolution, violent revolution, or other means. Looking to political experience and practice around the world, it’s only the dictatorships that grasp onto power for decades on end who in actual fact subvert the sovereignty of the people. This is why no one has heard of ordinary citizens in a civilized country being charged with the crime of subverting state power. If sovereignty does not belong to the people, then the people’s subversion of state power in order to return sovereignty to the people is right and proper.

    c. State Power is Not Equal to a Political Party’s Regime

In electoral democracies, state power in its narrow definition is typically held at any one time by one or a few political parties — thus the idea of a ‘ruling party’ or a coalition of parties that govern. The matter of which political party power is to reside in should be determined in competitive and free elections. It ought not be that a particular party seizes power for itself exclusively, not allowing any other person or political party comment on the matter. Even if particular citizens offer dissent to the regime of a particular party, or work in concert with one another to subvert it, these are all rights within the ambit of popular sovereignty and have nothing to do with subverting the power of the state.

    d. The Socialist System and State Power

The social system to be adopted is a question of the ideological and political platform of a party. No political party has the right to inextricably bind its own ideology and system and theory of governance to state power writ large, as though it were the unchanging and eternal standard. Whether a political program is accepted and supported by the public ought to be a matter decided by the public at large. Thus, whether one opposes or even attempts to overthrow the socialist system should not be a constitutive element in the determination of subversion of state power. Language referring to the ‘socialist system’ should not appear in the statute addressing this crime.

    e. Only Violent Subversion Can Constitute a Crime

Surveying the legal practices of every constitutional democracy in the world today, it is clear that only when an individual resorts to violence in an attempt to subvert the regime or government does the act constitute a crime. The use of peaceful measures — even when intended to subvert a regime or government — are simply not crimes. Even in the basic theories of political science, the people possess the natural and legitimate right to use violence to overthrow a tyrannical dictatorship. Is not the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party’s government itself just such an example from history?

Given all of the above, the appellant believes that — whether on the basis of the natural rights each individual is endowed with, or the common sense of jurisprudence and political science — the Tianjin Intermediate No. 2 Court should revise its decision against the appellant to not guilty. The appellant also suggests that the National People’s Congress revise the Criminal Law to limit the applicable scope of Article 105, relating to subversion of state power — or simply repeal the criminal category in its entirety.

 

Addressed to:

Tianjin Higher People’s Court

Appellant: Wu Gan

Defending counsel: Ge Yongxi, Yan Xin

January 4, 2018

 

 


Related:

The Twelve ‘Crimes’ of Wu Gan the Butcher, China Change, August 13, 2017.

Why Is Wu Gan ‘The Butcher’ So Important? Mo Zhixu, August 16, 2017

Wu Gan’s Statement After Being Sentenced to Eight Years in Prison for ‘Subversion,’  China Change, December 26, 2017.

My Pretrial Statement, Wu Gan, August 9, 2017.

Wu Gan the Butcher, a profile by Yaqiu Wang, July, 2015.

Bill of Indictment Against Rights Activist Wu Gan, January 12, 2017.

 


Wu Gan’s “three Guides” in Chinese:

Guide to Butchering Pigs (《杀猪宝典》) 

Guide to Drinking Tea (《喝茶宝典》) 

Guide to Petitioners Fighting Against Forced Demolition of Homes (《访民杀猪宝典》)

 

 

 

Chinese Government Thwarts Effort to Appeal the Recent Wukan Sentences

Zhuang Liehong, January 17, 2017

“Soon after, a dozen public security agents came to his house and forced him to sign his name to a document they provided, under the watch of three SWAT officers in his living room, who had their submachine guns pointed at his chest and head.”

 

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Wei Yonghan at the voting station in March 2012. He was recently sentenced to ten and a half years in prison for “disrupting public order.” 

 

On December 26, 2016, the Haifeng Court in Guangdong sentenced nine villagers from Wukan (six men and three women) to between two and ten years imprisonment, punishing them for participating in protests that swept Wukan for the second time, from June to September 2016, in response to the imprisonment of their democratically-elected village head Lin Zulian (林祖恋). 

The protests were repressed by armed police and SWAT teams, and scores of villagers were arrested, including my father.

The trial and sentencing threw all procedural requirement out the window. The villagers were never indicted, the families not notified of their right to retain counsel. Nine villagers were tried during the course of one day on December 17, 2016, and sentenced in less than 30 minutes on December 26. Thirteen more villagers await trial.

Since the sentencing, I have been working with lawyers on appeals. None of the nine villagers plead guilty and all said they would appeal in court. Given that villagers are very afraid and Wukan has been under lockdown since the protests were put down, I felt that I must do everything I can to not only appeal for my father but also help others lodge appeals on behalf of their loved ones.

Of the nine villagers, Wei Yonghan (魏永汉) received the heaviest sentence — 10.5 years. On January 1, I contacted Wu Jijin (吴吉金), a young Wukan villager working at a coffee shop in Futian, Shenzhen,  through the secure messaging application Signal, and through him reached Wei Huizhuan (魏慧转), Wei Yonghan’s niece. Her father, Wei Yongjian (魏永监), is the younger brother to Wei Yonghan. He initially believed that appealing his brother’s case would be tantamount to going against the government, and said: “It’s impossible to resist the government in Wukan now; otherwise we risk going to prison.” I spoke with Wei Yongjian about Wei Yonghan’s rights for three days, finally convincing him that appealing is simply the legal right of a defendant, that it’s the duty of the family, and that it’s entirely in accordance with the law. Wei Yongjian agreed to appeal on Wei Yonghan’s behalf, and he signed a power of attorney letter as well as a letter authorizing defense counsel, and sent them to the Bai Juming Law Firm in Guangxi Province (广西百举鸣律师事务所).

The very same day, Qin Yongpei (覃永沛) of the Bai Juming Law Firm was summoned for questioning by local security police and advised that “it would be best if you didn’t get involved in the sensitive Wukan affair.” On January 7, Qin Chenshou (覃臣寿) of the same law firm had his phone and computer hacked. All the case files were deleted, and he wasn’t able to access any of his social media accounts either.

The following day, after the sons of Hong Yongzhong (洪永忠) and Li Chulu (李楚卢) heard the news, each of them contacted me separately and prepared their own papers — powers of attorney and letters authorizing defense counsel. But before the documents could be sent off, that same night Hong Yongzhong’s son was hauled into the local police station where he was interrogated and intimidated. The outcome was that none of the documents were dispatched.

Then, just two days ago, the son of Yang Jinzhen (杨锦贞), who was of the view that the sentence given to his mother was simply preposterous, went to the Haifeng County People’s Court upon the direction of his lawyer and requested the official judgement. He was refused. He then went to the Wukan market asking villagers to attest to the innocence of his mother. This met with his immediate arrest by public security officials. He was threatened and forced to write a “guarantee statement” that he would not appeal. Yang’s son then took his father and left the village. The word is that they went back to Tianjin where he’d previously worked, and that before they left he said “history will be the judge of all this.”

Before I made contact with these family members, Wu Fang’s (吴芳) son had reached out to me and said that he was looking for a lawyer to appeal on his mother’s behalf. Soon after, a dozen public security agents came to his house and forced him to sign his name to a document they provided, under the watch of three SWAT officers in his living room, who had their submachine guns pointed at his chest and head.

On the afternoon of January 10, my cousin Zhuang Bing (庄冰), who attends university in Foshan, had her coach to Wukan intercepted. A dozen public security personnel came aboard and hauled her off for questioning, threatening her to the point of tears. Her computer used for schoolwork and cellphone were searched, and only after they established that she’d had no contact with me did they let her go.

 

wukan_%e9%99%88%e7%b4%a0%e8%bd%ac2

Chen Suzhuan speaking to villagers in 2012. “Worker, born in 1982, elected member of the Village Committee with 3,604 votes on the second round of direct voting on March 4, 2012.” She campaign platform was simple: “What takes place in our hometown is everyone’s business.” She was recently sentenced to three years in prison for “gathering an assembly” without permission. 

 

Later that evening the young Wukan villager Wu Jijin, who had helped me to connect with Wei Yonghan’s relatives, contacted me on Signal: “Brother Zhuang! I’m in trouble. I have to make myself scarce for a while. From now on you’re not to send me any messages.” I assumed that Wu had been summoned by the police. It’s already been four or five days and Wu Jijin’s whereabouts are still unknown. His family hasn’t received any news from the police.

A few days ago, a dozen public security agents and government people came to my family home again. They walked around, covertly took some photos, and left. My mother said that since my father was arrested this has happened countless times. The purpose appears to be to create an atmosphere of terror. Previously, my mother, along with my brother who has physical and cognitive disabilities, were tricked into signing and thumbprinting a document whose contents they were not apprised of. The government personnel had folded part of the paper down when getting the signature, and it was only a few days after she was forced to sign it that my mother realized that they had probably been duped.

Ever since myself and a few friends began trying to seek legal aid for the nine illegally sentenced Wukan villagers, the authorities have been extremely on edge. First the security police called the lawyers in for questioning, then they fooled or threatened the family members into signing documents, including statements terminating legal representation. These are identical tactics to those used in the first wave of crackdowns against Wukan, targeting Hong Ruichao (洪锐潮), Yang Semao (杨色茂) and Lin Zulian, who were given jail sentences of four years, two years, and three years and one month respectively. The authorities have been completely unrestrained, unscrupulous, and lawless in their trampling on human rights to repress Wukan villagers.

On January 8 myself and a number of friends inside and outside China began a petition on WeChat, a popular Chinese social media app, to tell more people in China about what’s going on in Wukan and to support the lawful efforts of Wukan villagers to defend their rights. Two days later WeChat shut down the petition. By then 491 people had signed on in support.

As of the present, every one of the family members of the nine villagers who’ve been sentenced and who were prepared to appeal has been forced to back down. Wei Yonghan’s younger brother, who had already secured legal representation for Wei, on January 10 signed a “Statement on the Termination of Power of Attorney,” and withdrew from appealing. Currently we’re the only family who has persisted.

For the sake of my people in Wukan, I won’t be silent and won’t give up. I am currently the only involved Wukan villager who lives in a free country, and I’m going to use my freedom to keep speaking out, to let the world know what’s happening in my hometown.

 

wukan-protest-zhuang-liehong-smallZhuang Liehong (庄烈宏)
New York City
January 14, 2017

 

Zhuang Liehong was one of the leaders of the 2011 Wukan uprising. He was elected a member of the Village Committee in March 2012. In early 2014 he left China to seek political asylum in the United States. He currently lives in New York.

 

 


Related:

How Nine Wukan Villagers Were Illegally Tried and Sentenced in December, 2016

 

Translated from Chinese by China Change.