07/30/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Repression continues: four years in prison for defending the rights of the dispossessed

The lawyer Liu Yao is accused of "fomenting violence", but responds that he only did his job, and that the evidence of alleged damage is "false". Meanwhile, a teacher is going to forced labor for one year, with no trial or appeal, for photographing the collapsed schools in Sichuan and putting the images on the web.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The lawyer Liu Yao has been sentenced to four years in prison by the tribunal of Heyuan (Guangdong), for arguing on behalf of the farmers of the village of Bainitang, against the appropriation of land carried out by an entrepreneur from Shenzhen. In "harmonious" China, anyone who protests immediately ends up in jail.

In December, the inhabitants of Bainitang brought a lawsuit against the appropriation of their land for the construction of a hydroelectric plant, complaining in part about their low compensation. But the court of Dongyuan replied that the project was approved by the local government, and that the compensation was fair. Liu, who has been following the case since 2006, did not give up, and continued to negotiate with the businessman.

Now, Liu has been sentenced for "inciting dozens of people" to assault the company's property, causing damage of about 50,000 yuan. Liu says that he did not foment any violent action, that there is no proof of damage to the project, and that the photos of the damage were taken in other places.

Liu Fang, a lawyer in Shenzen, comments that "we are taking great risks when we defend this kind of social injustice, especially those involved in interests entangled between companies and local authorities". He says there is great mistrust among lawyers.

Meanwhile, the teacher Liu Shaokun has been sentenced to a year of forced labor in a reeducation-through-work camp, for posting to the internet photos that he took of the schools that collapsed during the earthquake in Sichuan on May 12, under which more than 9,000 students and professors died. The group Human Rights in China explains that he was found guilty of "instigating disorder". This sentence is "administrative", and provides for no trial or appeal.

The parents of the students say that the schools were poorly built, and collapsed while surrounding buildings remain standing. They have called for investigations, in part over the redirection of public funds set aside for the schools, but the local authorities have been careful to reduce them to silence, to avoid bad publicity during the Olympics.

Liu is a middle school teacher in Deyang, one of the areas hit by the earthquake, and went around taking pictures of the collapsed schools. He was arrested on June 25, and sentenced on July 23.

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