Tiananmen activist on jail hunger strike, says rights group
Staff Reporter in Shanghai
A former student leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests is staging a hunger strike to dispute a seven-year jail sentence on what he calls false charges, a US human rights group said yesterday. He is also protesting against prison conditions.
A Shanghai court sentenced Zhang Ming, one of 21 student leaders of the pro-democracy movement, to seven years in jail last September for 'abuse of executive benefits', regarding the management of his company.
The charge had been changed from an earlier indictment for endangering public safety, concerning an alleged plot to blow up a building, New York-based Human Rights in China said.
Zhang says he is innocent and that the charges are bogus. Legal experts said the mainland typically applied that charge to executives of private companies, and that it corresponded to a corruption charge against leaders of state firms.
The rights group claimed the case was politically motivated because of government dissatisfaction over Zhang's refusal to change his political views.
Officials were also envious of his financial success with the Shanghai-based private company, the group said.
The Shanghai Intermediate People's Court, which handed down the sentence, and prison administration officials declined to comment on the case.
The former student leader had served a three-year prison term for 'counter-revolutionary incitement' for his role in the 1989 protests. He was sentenced by a Beijing court in 1990.
Human Rights in China said Zhang had lost 22kg since launching the hunger strike, and his medical condition was critical. Dissident sources said he had been subjected to physical abuse, including beatings, while in prison.
His family has called for the courts to accept an appeal for a retrial, which they said would allow the presentation of more evidence and the appearance of additional witnesses.