Chinese democracy activist jailed 13 years for subversion

Qin Yongmin, first jailed as a ''counter-revolutionary'' from 1981 to 1989, has already spent a total of 22 years behind bars.
Qin Yongmin, first jailed as a ''counter-revolutionary'' from 1981 to 1989, has already spent a total of 22 years behind bars.

BEIJING • A prominent Chinese political campaigner was sentenced to 13 years in jail yesterday.

Qin Yongmin was found ''guilty of subversion of state power'', the Wuhan City Intermediate People's Court said on its official website.

According to court records, it appears to be the heftiest sentence handed down in China for ''subversion'' in the past 15 years.

The 64-year-old Qin, first jailed as a ''counter-revolutionary'' from 1981 to 1989, has already spent a total of 22 years behind bars.

At the time of his arrest in January 2015, Qin was head of the prodemocracy China Human Rights Watch group, which circulated online statements denouncing government policies, as well as organised discussion groups.

Qin had ''refused to cooperate with the court'' and remained silent during his trial in May, lawyer Lin Qilei previously said.

Qin's other lawyer said he was in ''despair'' about the sentencing, and will appeal the verdict.

The verdict comes a day after Ms Liu Xia, the widow of dissident Liu Xiaobo, was allowed to leave China for Germany. Despite facing no charges, the 57-year-old poet had endured heavy curbs on her movements since 2010, when her husband won the Nobel Peace Prize - an award that infuriated Beijing.

Liu Xiaobo, a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, died last year while serving an 11-year jail sentence, also for ''subversion''.

Qin's prosecutors cited his writings on democracy as evidence, including a passage where he called on China's youth to fight for human rights protections according to United Nations treaties, six of which China has ratified.

The veteran activist was last convicted and sentenced to prison in late 1998 after he and other activists sought to officially register the China Democracy Party. He was released in December 2010.

The European Union yesterday criticised a ''deteriorating situation of civil and political rights in China, which has been accompanied by the detention and conviction of a significant number of Chinese human rights defenders''.

Following a two-day EU-China Human Rights Dialogue in Beijing, the Europeans also noted that Beijing had signed but not ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

It was this document that Qin cited as he attempted to found his party in 1998, landing him in jail. In December, activist Wu Gan was jailed for eight years after he refused to plead guilty to charges of subverting state power.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2018, with the headline 'Chinese democracy activist jailed 13 years for subversion'. Print Edition | Subscribe