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Former Judge, Released After 11 Years' Imprisonment for “Subversion,” Appeals for Help

May 1, 2013

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that on April 2, 2013, Li Jianfeng (李建峰), a former presiding judge in the Economic Department of Ningde Municipal Intermediate People's Court, Fujian Province, was released after serving more than 11 years in prison on conviction of “subversion of state power” and “illegal possession of firearms.” He had been sentenced to 16 years' imprisonment but received a five-year sentence reduction for performing extra labor in prison.

According to sources familiar with Li’s situation, Li is ill and has been unemployed since his release. His wife and daughter have left him (his daughter was two years old when he was first arrested in 2002), and he has to care for his elderly parents. Sources say that he lives on assistance provided by friends and on his parents’ pensions, and is appealing for the support of the international community.

Every year since 2007, in its annual Report on Human Rights Practices in China, the U.S. State Department has listed Li as one of the political prisoners in China, citing him as an example of China’s practice of jailing citizens “for reasons related to politics and religion.” According to a biographical essay on Li, Li began studying law in 1989 in order to work within the legal system to effect changes.

Informed sources say that Li's younger brother, Li Jianyu (李建宇), suffered from discrimination at work due to his connection to Li Jianfeng and, as a result, fled to Thailand in 2010. Since then, Li Jianyu has been detained by Thai immigration authorities. According to the sources, Li Jianfeng hopes his younger brother can obtain refugee status and settle in a new country as soon as possible; and that Li himself hopes to receive assistance and medical treatment.

Background on Li Jianfeng

Li was detained in March 2002, on the charges of which he would later be convicted. According to the Fujian Provincial Higher People's Court's second instance criminal verdict, Li was accused of being a leader in establishing an illegal, eight-member organization, called the “Labor Alliance,” that “opposes the Communist Party of China's leadership, intends to overthrow the socialist system, and subverts state power.” He was also accused of possessing a rifle and an air gun, and using the latter to shoot at and shatter a glass window in the office of the Ningde Municipal Court's president. Li denied these charges and claimed that the prosecution was in retaliation for his rights defense work. The seven other defendants in this case also denied the charges in the indictment.

Li spent more than a year in detention before his trial began at the Sanming Municipal Intermediate Court in May 2003. In the course of the trial, the court twice sent the case back to the procuratorate due to insufficient evidence, and the procuratorate, in turn, twice sent the case back to public security authorities, requesting additional investigation. In October of that year, the court convicted Li. The seven other defendants were also given multi-year prison terms. Li appealed. In February 2004, after a “trial” based on examination of written documents, the Fujian Provincial Higher People’s Court upheld the original verdict.

Li was repeatedly tortured in detention and in prison. He was once confined to an iron cage measuring not more than four square meters for 11 days and was deprived of sleep. He was beaten by police officers and fellow inmates, handcuffed behind his back, beaten by electric batons, handcuffed to an iron chair, and, after passing out from the beating, locked in a small cage measuring less than two square meters for 16 consecutive days. He was also forced to perform hard labor. The torture and abuses left physical and psychological marks. Li is now suffering from numerous illnesses, including gallstones and liver stones, and severe heart conditions.

For more information on Li Jianfeng, see:

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