Chinese Writer and Activist Sentenced for “Subversive Thoughts”
On January 18, 2012 Chinese writer and activist Li Tie was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “subversion of the state authority.” As proof the court cited several articles written by the Maoist writer, including his recent article, “Human Beings’ Heaven Is Human Dignity,” which called for democratic political reform.
Li was originally detained on September 15, 2010 and later arrested on October 22 of that year; his trial took place April 18, 2011. The family appointed lawyer, defense attorney Jin Guanghong, went missing during the trial and the Chinese government appointed a public defender to the case. Unfair practices and obstruction of legal defense by the Chinese government are not uncommon in cases similar to this one.
A key part of the Chinese prosecutor’s case was proving Li had “anti-government thoughts.” Once the prosecution proved the existence of such thoughts—using Li’s critical essays, comments on “reactionary” websites, and discussions with friends as evidence—they were able to argue that Li would ultimately act on his thoughts to subvert the government.
Unlike many Chinese writers and activists who are charged with incitement of subversion, Li was charged with subversion, a more serious crime that can incur a sentence of life in prison. On the other hand, inciting subversion, at its most serious, usually results in a sentence up to 10 years, but can result in a year-long sentence, house arrest, or surveillance in less serious cases. Chinese blogger Siweiluozi examines, questions, and comments on the differences between these two charges. In a post he states, “it appears as if many of [Li Tie’s] alleged crimes involved articles that he published—which would ordinarily fall under the category of incitement.“
China ranks 174 out of 179 on Reporters Without Borders‘ Press Freedom Index (2011-12). Only Iran, Syria, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea rank below it respectively. Reporters Without Borders has this to say about the countries that round out the bottom of its list: “Syria, Iran and China, are three countries that seem to have lost contact with reality as they have been sucked into an insane spiral of terror”.
Li has been prevented from appealing the verdict.