(TibetanReview.net, Jul17’21) – The trial of outspoken businessman Sun Dawu was stated to have begun in a closed-door court in northern China on Jul 15 on charges including “provoking trouble and disturbing public order” and illegal fundraising, reported the scmp.com Jul 15.
Last year, the 67-year-old had suggested the President Xi Jinping step down from office, accusing him of being the cause of the Covid-19 virus’ spread and China’s social disaster, and was arrested, according to the asianews.it Jul 14.
A favorite of the Chinese Communist Party in its early days, Sun is the founder of a billion-dollar agricultural empire. Until his arrest in Nov 2020, the entrepreneur used the profits from his Dawu Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Group to promote social justice, especially in China’s poorer rural areas.
And he often helped dissidents and human rights lawyers by paying the legal costs of their trials, the report said.
Sun’s lawyers have said the tycoon could be jailed for up to 25 years if convicted.
His case is being heard at the Gaobeidian People’s Court in Hebei province, and prosecutors have said he is also accused of illegal mining, encroachment on state farmland, and obstructing public service, among other charges.
Sun was detained with more than a dozen family members and business associates from his Dawu Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Group in Nov 2020 and they are all reportedly being tried.
Sun founded the Dawu Group in the 1980s and has since built it into a huge empire with more than 9,000 staff spanning agriculture, tourism and health care, according to the scmp.com report.
It said he has been vocal in criticising the government, including over its rural policies and handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sun was previously arrested in 2003, accused of illegal fundraising. He was later released after a group of lawyers, including prominent rights activist Xu Zhiyong, defended him. Xu himself has been in detention since February last year after he wrote an open letter calling for President Xi Jinping to step down.
In 2015, Sun voiced his support for those caught up in the “709 crackdown”, when over 300 human rights lawyers and activists were arrested.
He also publicly criticised the Hebei authorities in 2019, accusing them of covering up the extent of the damage done to the region’s pig herd by African swine fever outbreaks, the report added.