China to Free Top Human Rights Lawyer

He criticized the Communist Party online
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 22, 2015 1:00 AM CST
China to Free Top Human Rights Lawyer
Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang speaks during a 2010 interview at his office in Beijing.   (Ng Han Guan)

One of China's most prominent human rights lawyers is set to be freed after a Beijing court on Tuesday gave him a suspended jail sentence in a case involving online comments critical of the ruling Communist Party. The court convicted Pu Zhiqiang, who was arrested in a May 2014 crackdown, on charges of provoking troubles and inciting ethnic hatred. It sentenced him to three years in prison but said the sentence will be suspended for three years. Still, the guilty verdict disqualifies Pu from practicing law, and he must comply with certain restrictions and not commit crimes during the three-year period or risk being jailed. Amnesty International welcomed the suspended sentence but condemned the guilty verdict.

"Clearly it is positive that Pu Zhiqiang is unlikely to spend another night in jail, yet that cannot hide the gross injustice against him," an Amnesty spokesman said in a statement. "He is no criminal and this guilty verdict effectively shackles one of China's bravest champions of human rights from practicing law." Pu's supporters believe the case was politically driven to punish the outspoken lawyer, who was active in defending free speech and represented artist Ai Weiwei in a tax evasion case that Ai's supporters said was politically motivated. He also was instrumental in pushing for the eventual abolishment of the labor camp system, which allowed police to lock up people for up to four years without a trial. (The outspoken Miss World Canada was banned from entering China.)

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