4th Chinese activist found guilty of subversion in a week

BEIJING • A Chinese human rights activist was given a three-year suspended prison sentence for subversion yesterday, in the fourth such case this week as the authorities crack down on dissent.

Christian activist Gou Hongguo went overseas to be trained in "subverting state power", the Second Intermediate People's Court, in the northern city of Tianjin, said on a verified social media account.

It added that he sought to turn public opinion against the government and attempted to overthrow the socialist system, among a litany of other offences.

Gou was given three years in prison, suspended for three years, the court statement said, adding that he pleaded guilty and said he would not appeal. The term is relatively light for dissident trials in China.

But it was not clear whether he would be released. Zhai Yanmin, another defendant tried this week, was also given a three-year suspended sentence, but campaign groups said he had yet to return home and his whereabouts remain unknown.

Gou's wife Fan Lili, who gave birth to their son 16 months ago, said: "I'm happy as long as he can come home, and my child can have a father to raise him."

Gou protested against forced evictions. He was among more than 200 activists and lawyers involved in cases the government considers sensitive, and who were detained in July last year in the so-called 709 crackdown - named for its start date.

"The hardest thing is not knowing where my husband is and whether he is alive or dead," said Ms Fan, who was not allowed to attend the trial. She went to the courthouse earlier this week seeking information about him, but was bundled away by security personnel and taken to her home province of Shanxi.

"I am very strictly monitored, and cannot accept interviews or meet other family members," she said. "Otherwise, there will be a lot of trouble."

Gou's trial was the fourth at the Tianjin court this week, and followed that of high-profile rights lawyer Zhou Shifeng. Zhou was given seven years in prison for subversion. Hu Shigen was jailed for seven and a half years on Wednesday, a day after Zhai's sentence.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2016, with the headline '4th Chinese activist found guilty of subversion in a week'. Print Edition | Subscribe