Image credit: @ddjang.
In what is likely to be the start of a trend, pro-democracy campaigner Cao Haibo has been sentenced to 8 years in prison by a Kunming court ahead of this month’s leadership transition, on charges of “inciting subversion”, according to the Associated Press.
Cao Haibo’s sentencing comes as China prepares for a once-in-a-decade leadership transition that kicks off Nov. 8. In the lead up to the opening of the Communist Party congress in Beijing, authorities have intensified pressure on activists, dissidents and lawyers around the country.
Attorney Ma Xiaopeng said a court in the southern city of Kunming notified him Thursday that Cao, 27, had been sentenced in a secret hearing Wednesday. Ma said the court violated Chinese law that states all verdicts must be announced in open hearings.
Prominent Chinese dissidents, including Hu Jia and rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, have reported being threatened into leaving Beijing during the 18th Party Congress. Within the capital authorities have increased security to an almost farcical degree:
Kitchen knives and pencil sharpeners reportedly have been pulled from store shelves, and there’s even a rumor that authorities are on the lookout for seditious messages on pingpong balls.
Taxi’s in Beijing have been ordered to keep rear windows locked while near Tian’anmen Square and other “important venues”, apparently to prevent campaigners distributing leaflets through them.
Citizens have taken to Weibo to post photos of doors with handles crudely ripped off. Liu Shi, a client manager in a mass communication company, wrote that the taxi driver had told him that power to electronic window buttons would also be cut.
A memo circulating on Weibo warned taxi drivers to be on guard against passengers who may want to cast balloons with slogans or throw “ping pong balls with reactionary words.” It was unclear who issued the memo and its authenticity could not be confirmed.
Earlier in the week significant restrictions were put on the ability of Beijingers to buy remote controlled helicopters and planes, despite their flight range being limited to a few metres.
Pigeon owners have also been instructed to keep their birds in their coops during the congress. No word on whether authorities will act to stop Korean-style balloon leaflets (which, obviously, Shanghaiist does not recommend as a nearly untraceable method of spreading one’s message into high security areas).
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