Wednesday, April 6, 2016

China State Security Trials Fell 50 Percent in 2015, Official Data Suggest

Pu Zhiqiang (pictured above) was arrested for "inciting splittism", but convicted of "inciting ethnic hatred" and "picking quarrels and provoking trouble". Source: CCTV, DW-TV

Chinese courts concluded 50 percent fewer endangering state security (ESS) trials in 2015, according to Dui Hua’s analysis of data released in the annual work report of China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC). Dui Hua believes the decline represents an increase in the use of non-ESS charges to prosecute political and religious activism.

Dui Hua estimates that Chinese courts concluded more than 500 ESS trials of the first instance in 2015, compared with more than 1,000 ESS trials in 2014. Delivered to the National People’s Congress by SPC President Zhou Qiang on March 13, 2016, the annual work report includes ESS and endangering national defense (END) crimes in a category of “Other” trials. The category comprised 0.06 percent of first-instance criminal trials in 2015, compared with 0.13 percent in 2014. Based on an accounting of all of the crime categories in China’s Criminal Law and historical data on END trials, Dui Hua believes that the “Other” category is primarily populated by ESS cases—according to China Law Yearbook, only 243 END trials were concluded in 2014.

ESS crimes, which include subversion, inciting subversion, splittism, espionage, and state secrets violations, carry a mandatory supplemental sentence of deprivation of political rights (DPR). This sentence precludes individuals from writing articles, giving interviews, voting, standing for office, and working in a state-owned company.

The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region typically accounts for the largest percentage of ESS trials of any Chinese region. According to the annual work report of the Xinjiang High People's Court, courts in the autonomous region heard approximately 100 ESS trials in 2015, down from about 300 trials per year in 2014 and 2013. The same work report reveals that trials for the category of crimes that cover "terrorism" surged about 25 percent respectively in 2015. Dui Hua believes that many of the trials for cult and terrorism crimes had previously been handled as ESS trials.

As previously reported by Dui Hua, ESS indictments by procuratorates in 2014 rose to a record level since the criminal category was introduced in 1997: 1,411 people were indicted in 663 cases. In light of the sharp drop in ESS trials in 2015, Dui Hua expects that ESS indictments also fell by a significant margin last year. The numbers are expected to be released later this year when the 2016 China Law Yearbook is published.

ESS “and Other” Trials

Pu Zhiqiang’s recent conviction is a prominent example of the uncertainty with which the justice system categorizes political activities as endangering state security. Police initially charged Pu with the ESS crime of “inciting splittism” for criticizing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on his microblog. However, his conviction at trial was ultimately for the non-ESS crimes of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Although Pu was given a suspended sentence, he is not a free man—he continues to serve a sentence through compulsory measures and will be subject to various regulations, the violation of which could result in his future detention.

Dui Hua’s Political Prisoner Database (PPDB) records the names of 19 people tried for ESS crimes in 2015. Mettursun Eziz was sentenced in May to four years in prison and three years deprivation of political rights (DPR) for inciting splittism. The Henan Nanyang Intermediate People’s Court found that he used voice-messaging apps like WeChat to download a large number of “extreme religious materials” produced by the East Turkestan Islamic Party (ETIP). Mettursun Eziz is scheduled for release on April 2, 2018.

In perhaps the most widely reported ESS trial of 2015, prominent journalist Gao Yu (高瑜) was sentenced to seven years in prison for leaking state secrets in April. Observers have attributed the charges to the leaking of “Document Number 9,” an internal CCP manifesto that rails against democracy, civil society, and universal values like human rights. In November, the Beijing High People’s Court reduced Gao’s sentence to a five-year term and allowed the 71-year-old to serve the remainder of her term outside prison.

In December, the Nanyang Intermediate People’s Court sentenced prominent religious figure Li Baocheng (李保成) to four years in prison for inciting subversion and fraud. Henan’s Dahe Daily accused the 77-year-old of extortion for charging “baptism fees.” Li was also found guilty of discussing plans to establish a new political party to challenge the CCP.

2015 First Instance Trials for ESS Cases in the Dui Hua PPDB
Name Sex Crime 1st instance Trial Date 1st Instance Verdict
Du X
M Inciting subversion 12/15/2015 10 Months, 1 Yr DPR
Gao Yu
F Illegally procuring/trafficking in state secrets/intelligence for foreign entities 04/17/2015 7 Yrs, 1 Yr DPR
Han X
M Illegally procuring/trafficking in state secrets/intelligence for foreign entities 01/29/2015 8 Yrs, 4 Yrs DPR
Li Baocheng
M Inciting subversion 12/15/2015 4 Yrs, 2 Yrs DPR
Li X
M Inciting subversion 12/15/2015 1 Yr, 1 Yr DPR
Liang Qinhui
M Inciting subversion 11/13/2015 Unknown
Liu Chao
M Inciting subversion 01/27/2015 1 Yr (DPR Unknown)
Liu Jiacai
M Inciting subversion 05/08/2015 5 Yrs, 3 Yrs DPR
Mettursun Eziz
M Inciting splittism 03/17/2015 4 Yrs, 3 Yrs DPR
F Inciting splittism 12/21/2015 5 Yrs, 2 Yrs DPR
Qamber Amber
M Inciting splittism 03/21/2015 9 Yrs (DPR unknown)
Wang Mo
M Inciting subversion 11/19/2015 Unkown
Xie Fengxia
M Inciting subversion 11/19/2015 Unknown
Yang Mingyu
M Inciting subversion 09/23/2015 3 Yrs, 4 Yrs DPR
Yang X
M Inciting subversion 12/15/2015 1.5 Yrs, 1 Yr DPR
Yang X
M Inciting subversion 12/15/2015 10 Months, 1 Yr DPR
Zhang Rongping 张荣平 M Inciting subversion 11/13/2015 Unknown
Zhang X
M Illegally procuring/trafficking in state secrets/intelligence for foreign entities 02/12/2015 6 Yrs, 1 Yr DPR
Zhao X
M Illegally procuring/trafficking in state secrets/intelligence for foreign entities 01/2015 7 Yrs, 2 Yrs DPR