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Chinese Activist Faces up to 10 Years in Prison


Wu Gan, right, takes part in a demonstration outside a court in Fuzhou, Fujian province. Wu is awaiting a decision in his trial.

A court in China held a closed hearing on Monday in the case of a well-known Chinese activist.

Wu Gan faces up to 10 years in prison. Legal observers expect the court to announce its decision in a few days.

Wu is said to face up to 12 charges, including “inciting state subversion.”

Wu is best known for making fun of official efforts to block his push for justice.

Wu Gan is known in China by his online name: “The Butcher.”

Wu once served in China’s military. He became famous by using unusual campaigns that combine online speech, street performance, and humor to criticize other people’s actions.

Wu was first arrested in May of 2015 after he reportedly swore at the head of a court in Nanchang, a city in Jiangxi province. He was officially charged with “inciting state subversion” two months later.

However, his detention was reported to be part of the July 9 Crackdown, a government campaign against rights lawyers that began in July of 2015. Wu did work for the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, a law office that was a main target of the crackdown.

Trial not open to the public

His trial on Monday was not open to the public. The court in Tianjin said in a statement that this was because state secrets were involved.

The statement said Wu “recognized” his behavior was a crime and that his lawyers presented arguments in his defense. The court added that a decision “would be handed down at a later date.”

Xu Xiaoshun, the father of activist Wu Gan looks through documents about his son's case in a restaurant in Jiangsu Province.
Xu Xiaoshun, the father of activist Wu Gan looks through documents about his son's case in a restaurant in Jiangsu Province.

Before the trial, Wu released a statement that his father published online.

In that statement, the activist said he expects a “heavy sentence” because he refused a state-appointed lawyer or to admit guilt in court.

Wu said he also refused to admit guilt in front of a television camera for officials’ propaganda purposes. And he said he wanted to show how the police had tortured him.

Wu described the trial as a “farce,” and said he would refuse to speak in his own defense. “An innocent man doesn’t need to defend himself,” the statement said.

Wu also said he did nothing wrong but to exercise his civil rights guaranteed by China’s Constitution. He said being found guilty would represent an honor awarded to “warriors for liberty and democracy.”

Jerome Cohen is a professor at the New York University School of Law. He called the statement a moving and accurate description of the misuse of China’s legal system to limit freedom of speech.

Cohen wrote on his blog, “This account of his personal experience encapsulates virtually all the abuses the Xi Jinping regime has been committing against human rights activists.”

You Minglei is a legal assistant and a friend of Wu Gan. You said Wu would likely receive a seven-to-10-year sentence.

You told VOA that Chinese officials were angry with Wu for his “pursuit of illegal misconduct by local governments or public office holders.”

He noted that Wu wrote stories with names like “Guides to Butchering Pigs” and “Guides to Drinking Tea,” which made officials angry.

Increased security was reported around the court in Tianjin, where the secret trial was held. Several China-based diplomats and journalists, including a VOA reporter, were barred from observing the trial.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Joyce Huang reported this story for VOANews.com. Mario Ritter adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

online adj. connected to or involving a computer or telecommunications system

crackdown – n. a serious effort to punish people for doing something that is not permitted; an increase in the enforcement of certain laws or rules

farce – n. something seen as bad or the object of laughter

accurateadj. free from mistake; problem-free

blog – n. web log, someone’s online writing page

encapsulates --v. shows the main idea of something

pursuit – n. to seek out and follow

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