The following is a guest post by K. Drinhausen:
The final sentence for the good man of Sichuan?
Even considering the various indicators of the Chinese governments harder stance against any form of dissent in the past year (or even criticism voiced within the system) the outcome of the appeal of Tan Zuoren still came as a shock to many, with the Chengdu Middle Court raising the prison term from three to five years. In this supposedly open trial journalists were again preventedfrom attending.
Comparing the well prepared defense brought forward by Tan Zuorens lawyers Xia Lin and Pu Zhiqiang with the justification of the harsh punishment given in the verdict by the court doesn’t speak for the Chinese government’s every so often proclaimed efforts in promoting the rule of law. In the end it is the debate or even mention of why the objections failed to convince the court that makes the verdict look like a pre-written script and not the deliberate decision of an unbiased jury. Sometimes silence does say more than a thousand words.
(The following is a translation of Tan Zuoren’s verdict.)
Criminal verdict by the Chengdu Middle Court
Verdict No. 273 2009, public prosecutor of the Sichuan Province, Chengdu People’s Procuratorate.
Defendant: Tan Zuoren, male, born May 5th, 1954 in Chengdu, Sichuan. Han Chinese. Educational background: polytechnic school, currently unemployed. Residency: Chengdu, Wuhou district, Wangjiang street 29, Taolincun Compound, Apt. 6/6. Taken into criminal custody on March 28th 2008 under suspicion of inciting subversion to overturn the government. Formally arrested on April 30th 2009 on the ground of inciting subversion to overturn the government. Taken into custody by the detention house of the Wenjiang district in Chengdu.
Defense: Xia Lin, Lawyer at Beijing Law Firm Huayi, Pu Zhiqiang, Lawyer at Beijing Law Firm Huayi. The Peoples Procuratorate of Chengdu, Sichuan examines the possibility of criminal punishment following the indictment No. 183, 2009 charging Tan Zuoren with the crime of inciting subversion to overturn the government that was presented to this court on July 28th 2009. This court and its panel of judges are hearing and trying this case in accordance with the law. The Peoples Procuratorate of Chengdu, Sichuan appoints the prosecutor Wang Yihong as an agent for the public prosecution. The protocol is taken down by Secretary Li Zhenzhen. The defendant Tan Zuoren and his defense lawyers Xia Lin and Pu Zhiqiang are present at the trial. This is the final hearing of the trial.
The Peoples Procuratorate of Chengdu formally charges the defendant Tan Zuoren. He has been unsatisfied the CCP Central Committee handling of the “June 4th” incident and their definition of the occurrences and has for many years been commemorating the “June 4th” incident through different means. On May 27th 2007 Tan Zuoren cooked up the essay “1989: Testifying to the Final Beauty – Diary of an eyewitness on the square” (below referred to as “The Square Diary”) and the spreading of this article via the internet and on foreign hosted forums such as “Fire of Liberty“. In this article Tan Zuoren distorted and slandered the CCP Central Committees handling of the “June 4th” incident. Soon after the article was published, the foreign hostile element Wang Dan used e-mail to get in contact with Tan Zuoren and repeatedly send propaganda materials about the “June 4th” incident to the defendant.
On July 4th 2008 Tan Zuoren and others [gathered] on Chengdus Tianfu Square and used blood donations as a means of commemorating the “June 4th” incident. During that period the defendant also accepted a phone interview from the foreign enemy media “Sound of Hope”. After November 2008 Wang Dan repeatedly send materials concerning the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the “June 4th” incident to Tan Zuoren. On February 10th 2009 Tan Zuoren sent Wang Dan an e-mail containing a “Suggestion for a commemoration of the 20th anniversary of June 4th” in which he suggested a commemorative action for the “June 4th” incident called ” Global June 4th Chinese People’s Blood Donation”. After the Wenchuan earthquake on May 12th 2008, Tan Zuoren accepted a lot of interviews by international media, and publicly discussed a lot of issues that seriously slandered the reputation of the Communist Party and the government*. On March 27th 2009 Tan Zuoren was taken into custody by public security organs to face charges.
To support the accuracy of the charges stated above the Peoples Procuratorate of Chengdu submitted documentation and evidence including the detention order, documentation of the arrest and the warranted search, a list of belongings of the detainee, witness testimonies and the defendants deposition. The Peoples Procuratorate of Chengdu believes that the actions of Tan Zuoren constitute a violation of the article 105 of the Criminal Law of the PRC and that he should therefore be held responsible and accordingly punished for the crime of inciting subversion to overturn the government. The defendant Tan Zuoren and his defense lawyers have no real objections against this case, but argue that his conduct didn’t constitute a criminal action and submitted several pieces of evidence that the defense collected to the court. After considering the evidence, it is still clear that the defendant Tan Zuoren is opposed against the way the Chinese government dealt with the “June 4th” incident in accordance with the law. On May 27th 2007 Tan Zuoren cooked up the article “The Square Diary”, claiming it to be the record of the actual events. This article really paid no attention to objectivity and misrepresented and distorted on a large scale, slandering and vilifying the Chinese government’s management of the “June 4th” incident in accordance with the law and thus incited people inside and outside of this country to oppose and protest the Chinese government. On July 4th 2008 Tan Zuoren colluded with other people to “donate blood” in a commemorative action of the “June 4th” incident on the Tianfu Square in Chengdu, where he accepted interviews from the foreign media “Sound of Hope” via his phone and publicly stated that by “donating blood” they were “keeping alive the spirit of June 4th”. On the same day the content of the interview given by Tan Zuoren was published on the “Sound of Hope” website. On March 28th 2009 Tan Zuoren was then taken into custody by the security forces to face charges.
The facts stated above were already subject of a court hearing; the authenticity of the following items of evidence was verified: […] All documents and pieces of evidence relevant to this case is listed.
The facts behind the charges the Peoples Procuratorate of Chengdu brings up against Tan Zuoren – concocting the article “The Square Diary” and spreading it through international media – are clear; the evidence is definitely sufficient and was confirmed in accordance with the law. Concerning the charges that weren’t recognized by the defense, which submitted evidence and interpretations, the facts they presented were found to hold no relevance and failed to convince the court.
This court found that the defendant Tan Zuoren incited subversion to overturn the government and the socialist system by spreading vilifying rumors and that his actions constitute the crime of subversion against the power of the state. The objections the defendant Tan Zuoren and his defense put forward – that his actions didn’t fulfill the crime of subversion against the power of the state – and the facts proven through the investigation and the relevant law are inconsistent and therefore were rejected by this court. On the basis of the articles [listed again below, including the content of the regulations] of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China this court announces the following verdict: The defendant Tan Zuoren was found guilty of the crime of subversion to overturn the government and is sentenced to serve the full sentence of five years in prison and furthermore will be deprived of his political rights for three years. (The prison term will be active after the sentence is served; the time already spend in custody will be deducted, meaning the sentence will be served from March 28th 2009 to March 27th 2014). If the defendant doesn’t consent with the sentence, then he can appeal within 10 days following the day after receiving the sentence, either trough this court or directly trough the High Court of Sichuan Province. The written appeal has to be submitted in one original and two additional copies.
The relevant law article 105, passage 2 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China states that starting rumors, slander or other means of inciting subversion against the government or overturning the socialist system can be punished with up to five years of imprisonment; if the defendant is a major culprit or [his actions] constitute an indictable offence then he can be punished with five years or more of imprisonment.
- Article 65, passage 1 states that the crime of endangering national security can additionally be punished with the deprivation of the political rights; intentional manslaughter, rape, arson, explosives, poisoning, plunder and other serious offences against the public order can also additionally be punished with the deprivation of political rights.
- Article 55, passage 1 states that the limits for the deprivation of political rights, except for regulations concerning article 57. The time limit is set between one to five years.
- Article 47 states that the fixed term of imprisonment starts from the day the sentence is delivered by the court; the time already served in custody before the sentence can be deducted.
- Article 58, passage 1 states that the time of deprivation of political rights starts from the end of the prison term, the detention or with the parole, the deprivation of political rights should of course be taken into account in the general penalty.
* In regard to the order in which the “victims” of his supposed attacks are named I can’t help but wonder if damaging the image of the Communist Party wasn’t the real crime that he was found guilty of.