Chinese labour activist sentenced to 4½ years for inciting subversion

After two years in detention, Liu Xiaoming is given prison sentence for publishing his account of June 4 incident

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 7:33pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 10:58pm

Veteran Chinese labour activist Liu Xiaoming has been sentenced to four years and six months in prison on the charge of inciting subversion of state power after he published his personal account of the bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, rights groups reported on Friday.

Liu was sentenced by a court in Guangzhou, capital of southern China’s Guangdong province, after having already spent more than two years in detention, Amnesty International said. He was taken into custody in May 2015, five days after publishing his account of the events of 1989 on an overseas website.

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A Guangzhou court docket listed a sentencing hearing on the subversion charge scheduled for Friday but gave no name or other details. Calls to the court went unanswered.

The same charge was levelled at Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 and is now suffering from late-stage liver cancer.

Liu Xiaoming’s sentencing illustrates China’s determination to pursue a relentless crackdown on lawyers, rights activists and workers’ advocates outside the direct control of the ruling Communist Party.

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Liu had been a worker at a steel mill when he travelled to Beijing to join the mass demonstrations centred on Tiananmen Square. He became a member of an independent labour federation that sprang up as part of the pro-democracy movement. He was jailed for a year following the army crackdown, in which hundreds, possibly thousands were killed.

In recent years, Liu had worked on behalf of migrant workers in the industrial heartland of which Guangzhou is the centre. At his trial in April last year, prosecutors claimed he had “engaged in rumour-mongering and slander against state power and socialism” by posting writings on social media sites such as WeChat, QQ groups and Telegram, according to the group China Human Rights Defenders.

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“The Chinese government needs to stop throwing in jail those who are only trying to peacefully remember the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown and instead take responsibility for the authorities’ past wrongs,” William Nee, Amnesty International China researcher, said in a statement.