07/14/2021, 15.35
CHINA
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Hebei businessman Sun Dawu, friend to poor farmers and dissidents, goes on trial

He stands accused of "fomenting unrest". His family and numerous employees of his company are also facing trial. Sun is a champion of the fight against poverty. Punished for helping humanitarian activists like Xu Zhiyong. Xi Jinping continues to crack down on difficult tycoons.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The trial opens tomorrow against Sun Dawu, the agricultural entrepreneur and philanthropist who has come under fire from the Chinese authorities for his commitment to social justice and humanitarian activists like Xu Zhiyong.

His wife, their adult children and several employees of his company will also appear before the judges of the People's Court of Gaobeidian (Hebei), all arrested on charges of "fomenting unrest". In a statement published yesterday, Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) condemned the persecution of Sun and those close to him and called for his release.

A favorite of the Chinese Communist Party in its early days, the 67-year-old Sun is the founder of a billion-dollar agricultural empire. Until his arrest in November, the entrepreneur used the profits from his Dawu Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Group to promote social justice, especially in China's poorer rural areas.

Sun has often helped dissidents and human rights lawyers by paying the legal costs of their trials. He especially blames his support for Xu Zhiyong, founder of the 'New Citizens' movement'. Repressed by Xi Jinping, the humanitarian group worked to defeat corruption in society and promote constitutional reforms.

At the start of the pandemic last year, Xu strongly criticised the Chinese president, accusing him of being the cause of the virus' spread and China's social disaster. Immediately after these statements, the police arrested the activist, who is reportedly being held in Linshu prison (Shandong).

According to CHRD, the arrest and imprisonment of Sun, who is considered a champion of the fight against poverty, shows that the Party is more interested in political control than in improving living conditions in the countryside.

The humanitarian organisation also denounced the mistreatment of the businessman and his family in prison, reporting that they were subjected to a long period of administrative detention. According to Chinese law, this restrictive measure should only apply to cases of terrorism and security threats.

Sun faces a sentence of 25 years. In addition to the charge of creating riots, he is being tried on other charges, the most serious of which include 'sabotaging production and economic activity'. According to several observers, the regime fears the economic strength and influence of these businessmen, who represent a potential threat to the Party.

After criticising the country's financial regulations in October, Jack Ma has disappeared from public view. Ma is the founder of Alibaba, the national online trading giant. The situation was worse for the dissident tycoon Ren Zhiqiang, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison in September for corruption offences. Shortly before his arrest, Ren had made headlines for publishing an article on the web in which he called Xi a "power-hungry clown".

In September, police also arrested publisher Geng Xiaonan, accused of defending dissident jurist Xu Zhangrum. Two months later, Chongqing businessman and philanthropist Li Huaiqing received a 20-year sentence for allegedly "inciting subversion against the state".

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