In two separate proceedings today in a Hangzhou court that lasted about two-and-a-half-hours each, longtime democracy activists Chen Shuqing (陈树庆) and Lü Gengsong (吕耿松), members of the China Democracy Party’s Zhejiang Committee, were tried for “subversion of state power.” Both have been imprisoned before, but this charge is the heaviest that either has faced thus far, and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Both Chen and Lü pled not guilty and the Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court announced that it would deliver its verdicts on a separate day.
Lü was detained on July 7, 2014, and formally arrested on August 13, reportedly for publishing essays online critical of the Chinese government.
Chen was detained on September 11, 2014, and formally arrested in October, following a joint statement he signed urging the release of detained individuals and an account he published about Lü being denied access to a lawyer while in detention.
Chen’s trial took place in the morning, and Lü’s in the afternoon. The wives of both defendants each attended their husband’s trial.
Zhang Donghong (张东红), Chen’s wife, said that in his defense statement in court, Chen stressed that the promotion of democracy is not a crime, and the rights to freedom of thought, speech, and association are protected by the Chinese Constitution. Zhang added that she had not seen her husband in more than a year, and that he appeared to have aged and become thinner than before.
Wang Xue’e (汪雪娥), Lü’s wife, said that the judge interrupted Lü before he could finish reading his defense statement. She said Lü’s spirit seemed good.
Chen had previously served a four-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power,” in connection with his role in organizing the China Democracy Party’s Zhejiang Committee and articles he wrote calling for democratic reform. He was released in September 2010 and soon resumed his activism. In November of that year, he was among six individuals who applied to the Hangzhou Public Security Bureau for a permit to hold a demonstration to call for democratic reform.
Chen was a participant in the 1989 student movement, and began his pro-democracy activism in 1995. He became involved in the preparatory work for organizing the China Democracy Party in 1998, for which involvement he was detained for four months in 1999.
Lü had also served four years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power.” Following his release on August 23, 2011, he was subjected to one year of deprivation of political rights, and endured numerous searches in his home. Beginning in February 2014 up until his detention in July, the authorities restricted Lü’s movement and put his home under round-the-clock surveillance.
Lü, a native of Hangzhou, had taught at a special training school for public security officers, but was dismissed in 1993 because of his pro-democracy activities. He subsequently supported himself as a free-lance writer. He is the author of the History of Corruption in the Communist Party of China (中共贪官污吏), published in Hong Kong (2000), as well as a number of articles on corruption, organized crime, and related topics. Lü has also reported on the sentencing of rights activists, and has frequently voiced support for the protection of ordinary people’s rights.