Xu Zhiyong’s lawyer has confirmed that the defendant will appeal, nearly a week after the Beijing No. 1 People’s Intermediate Court sentenced him four years in prison on charges of ‘gathering crowds to disrupt public order’. Meanwhile, two more members of the New Citizens Movement on Wednesday were convicted on the same charges.
Xu, a prominent Chinese lawyer, lecturer and founder of the New Citizens’ Movement, was arrested in 2013 and sentenced to four years in prison last Sunday.
Media have declared that the verdict “marked the end of an era in Chinese activism” and Xu’s lawyer, Zhang Qingfang, called his client’s trial a “laughing stock”, the outcome of which was preordained by the Chinese Communist Party.
Days after the trial, two more New Citizen members, Hou Xin and Yuan Dong, were convicted, according to Reuters. Both were likewise charged with “gathering crowds to disrupt public order”.
Yuan was sentenced to 1-1/2 years in prison, but Hou escaped a jail term because the court considered her action a “less serious” crime, lawyers for the two and the court’s official microblog said.
“They are not only innocent, but they are among the best and most outstanding people in China,” said Yuan’s lawyer, Chen Jiangang. “They are China’s conscience.”
Yuan, who was tried on Monday, will definitely appeal against the judgment, Chen told Reuters by telephone. “I believe they should not even sentence him to a day,” he added.
Yuan and Hou were among four activists who unfurled banners and gave speeches in a busy western part of the capital last March, urging officials to disclose their assets.
Sui-Lee Wee at Reuters has also reported that Xu, who remained silent until the end of his original trial, plans to appeal his sentence.
“If we don’t appeal, the verdict in these [other] cases will not be changed, they’ll be predetermined,” Zhang told Reuters by telephone. “So we have to fight for a space for them, we have to fight for a chance.”
Zhang said although both he and Xu did not think they would win a lighter sentence with the appeal, they planned to use the opportunity to lay out their points of view about the case.
Zhang said he would file an appeal for Xu within 10 days.
A letter penned by Xu’s wife was made public this week, wherein she heartbreakingly describes the emotional burden she has taken on since her husband’s arrest. She sadly observes the way their daughter—born while Xu was in police custody—looks like her father when she frowns.
Don’t worry too much about the issues at home. I only hope you will always think about the child. Niuniu’s nose and mouth look very much like yours. Every time she frowns, she looks so much like you. It fills me with melancholy. If we say the situations you and I find ourselves in now are the result of our own subjective choices, are our own doing, then this 14-day-old is really among the most innocent people in the world.