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China Convicts Human Rights Lawyer Pu Zhiqiang for Microblogs
Following a Beijing’s court guilty verdict and three-year suspended sentence against human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“Pu was jailed for 19 months, denied medical attention, convicted, and effectively disbarred because of seven microblog posts that mocked political leaders and criticized harsh policies in ethnic minority regions,” said Mark P. Lagon, president. “His punishment is a selective, arbitrary application of the law. As one of China’s top attorneys focused on cases defending freedom of expression, his inability to continue working as a lawyer is a profound loss for victims of abuse and the cause of justice and media freedom in China.”
Authorities detained Pu Zhiqiang in May 2014 after he attended a private gathering commemorating the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. After a year in custody, prosecutors announced his indictment on charges of “stirring up trouble” and “inciting ethnic hatred” for 28 microblog posts. The charges were reduced to focus on seven posts prior to his trial on December 14.
Pu, one of China’s most prominent attorneys, had clients including artist Ai Weiwei and a labor camp detainee in a case widely believed to have helped catalyze the Chinese Communist Party’s abolition of the decades-old "re-education through labor" camps. He is among dozens of lawyers and legal assistants arrested in the past two years because of their legal and human rights advocacy work.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.