Rights crackdown: Chinese Christian activist convicted for subversion
Sentencing of Gou Hongguo caps four days of trials in Tianjin, a year after rights advocates rounded up across the country
A court in Tianjin on Friday wrapped up the first trials of rights lawyers and activists arrested in a massive nationwide crackdown last year, convicting a Christian activist for subverting state power.
The fate of up to 14 others in custody, including rights lawyer Li Heping, remained unknown.
The Tianjin No 2 Intermediate People’s Court handed down a three-year jail term, suspended for three years, to Gou Hongguo, 55.
Gou was among roughly 300 lawyers and legal activists detained or interrogated in the so-called “709 crackdown”, named after the date of the first arrests on July 9 last year.
The court had already sentenced rights lawyer Zhou Shifeng, who headed Fengrui law firm that was at the centre of the crackdown, to seven years in prison.
Veteran pro-democracy activist and underground church leader Hu Shigen was ordered to serve 7½ years in jail and another rights activist Zhai Yanmin was given a three-year sentence, suspended for four years.
Citing court proceedings, state news agency Xinhua highlighted alleged ties between underground churches, rights lawyers, petitioners and media outlets outside the mainland that the prosecution claimed colluded to use social grievances to put pressure on the mainland government.
Xinhua said Gou was represented by lawyers he had appointed. Families of defendants in the trials had said the court rejected their appointed lawyers.
Prosecutors said Gou, a member of Hu Shigen’s church and his firm follower, took part in an interfaith and interethnic training seminar in Taipei in April 2014 that was also said to be attended by advocates of independence in Xinjiang and Tibet.
“Gou Hongguo was sent outside of the mainland by Hu Shigen to receive training related to subverting the government,” Xinhua quoted the prosecution as saying.
The prosecution also said Gou organised and paid for a lunch gathering in Beijing on February 1 last year, during which lawyers, petitioners, underground church members and pro-democracy activists discussed social movements.
Gou pleaded guilty and said he would not appeal.
Gou’s wife Fan Lili was sent back to her hometown in Shanxi province from Tianjin on Tuesday and has been under surveillance since then.
Their child was only three months old when Gou was detained last July.
“I found the whole thing quite absurd, but I don’t want to say anything anymore,” Fan said.
“At least he can come back home, and our child can be with his father.”