China decides to be ‘lenient’ with prominent rights lawyer

Prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang. (Photo courtesy: AFP)
Prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang. (Photo courtesy: AFP)

(, Dec23, 2015) – Although outraged by the guilty verdict, supporters of the prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang have expressed relief over the three-year suspended sentence a court in Beijing has imposed on him. Pu was tried for and has been found guilty of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” for seven social media posts he had made between 2011 and 2014, criticizing China’s ethnic policies and officials.

China’s official Xinhua news agency said in a one-sentence report Dec 22 that Pu was sentenced to three years in prison with a reprieve of three years for inciting ethnic hatred and disturbing public order.

Pu was arrested in May 2014 as part of a wider nationwide crackdown on dissidents after attending a meeting to discuss commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, a taboo topic in China.

Pu, one of the bravest of Chinese lawyers, has been a vocal supporter of free speech and has represented, among others, famed dissident artist Ai Weiwei. He has also represented labour camp victims and criticized government policies over Tibet and the ethnic Uyghur.

Shang Baoujun, one of Pu’s lawyers, has told Deutsche Welle Dec 22, “Today’s verdict also means, Pu Zhiqiang could not serve as a practicing lawyer. He can’t provide legal services or assistance as a lawyer.”

The report said Pu’s supporters were relieved that the suspended sentence likely meant the human rights lawyer will remain free from spending time in prison, but had expressed outrage over the guilty verdict and a sentence that effectively silences him for the near future.

Under the three-year sentence, Pu will be monitored by police and can only leave Beijing with permission.


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