01/08/2009, 00.00
CHINA

Pro-democracy activist Wang Rongqing sentenced to six years for "subversion"

He is one of the veterans of the pro-democracy movement. The heavy sentence demonstrates that the government intends to suffocate the spread of democratic ideas, following the publication of the Charter 08. Beijing also fears demonstrations in 2009, the 20th anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen. Wang Rongqing has also written in defense of religious freedom.

Hangzhou (AsiaNews/CHRD) - The activist Wang Rongqing, 65, has been condemned to six years in prison for "subversion against the state," having supported and spread the "China Democracy Party" (CDP). The sentence was handed down yesterday by the people's court in Hangzhou (Zhejiang).

According to the verdict, Wang is guilty of "subversion against state power," because he was the main proponent of the Chinese Democracy Party in Zhejiang, and continued to "participate in an active way, organizing and developing it" even after the ministry of public safety had branded it an "enemy organization." Other crimes listed in the sentence are that, before the Olympics in Beijing, Wang organized the first national meeting of the CDP and published many articles on the web, and a book entitled "The opposition party."

The sentence of six years is one of the highest ever handed down in Zhejiang for pro-democracy activists. According to the CHRD (Chinese Human Rights Defenders), after Wang's arrest, the police advised his family to remain quiet and to accept a public attorney for the trial. In this way, Wang could have received a lesser penalty. Wang's family followed the advice, never gave interviews, and accepted court-appointed lawyer Liu Yong.

Wang is ill, and is able to move only with the use of crutches. His friends hope that he will appeal, but at the reading of the sentence and to the question of his friends in court asking him to appeal, Wang shrugged his shoulders as if to say this would be useless.

Zhou Wei, a dissident from Hangzhou who attended the trial, says that the sentence was so heavy because the government is trying to suffocate any democratic criticism after the publication of Charter 08, a document signed by thousands of academics, activists, businessmen, and ordinary people, and out of the fear of popular uprisings in 2009, which marks the 20th anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square.

Wang Rongqing is a veteran of pro-democracy activism, since the time of the Democracy Wall, established and then abolished by Deng Xiaoping at the end of the 1970's. He then joined the founders of the CDP in the mid-1990's, and was imprisoned on a number of occasions. Currently there are nine members of the CDP in prison in Zhejiang.

In 2004, Wang was arrested for two weeks, for distributing a draft law on Chinese political parties; in 2005, he was arrested for six months, for organizing the CDP in Zhejiang; in 2006, he was arrested for one month for writing articles against the repression of religious freedom in Zhejiang; in 2008, he was arrested until his sentencing yesterday, for "subversion against state power."

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