Convictions of Chinese peaceful protesters condemned

Amnesty International on Wednesday condemned the conviction of 10 peaceful protesters in China’s southwestern province of Sichuan and called on the Chinese government to immediately release them.The eight men and two women were convicted on Tuesday of “gathering a crowd to disturb social order” following a Feb 2009 demonstration outside Chengdu City Intermediate People’s Court.Bao Junsheng (56) , Zeng Li (44), Huang Xiaomin (48), Zeng Rongkang (56), Xing Qingxian (44), Yan Wenhan (47), Lu Dachun (44) and Yang Jiurong (46 f) received prison sentences of between two and three years. Xu Chongli (57f) and Liu Jiwei (56) were released under a one- two year supervision order. “This case raises some disturbing questions about China’s commitment to basic human rights,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Programme Director.”These individuals were part of a peaceful protest calling for judicial reform. Instead of justice, they were arrested, tortured and now face unwarranted prison sentences.” Six of those convicted were members of a group of approximately 30 people who chained themselves together outside the court on 23 Feb 2009 to protest against a series of court judgments.Yan Wenhan and Huang Xiaoming are local activists who filmed the protests, Xing Qingxian posted his account of the story online, based on witness Lu Dachun’s photos and information.The protesters and witnesses were not detained at the scene, but only after articles and videos about the protest spread on the internet. The group stood trial at Leshan City Intermediate People’s Court on 7 and 8 April 2010, but the case was sent back to prosecutors for more investigation.At that trial, six of the 10 defendants – Zeng Rongkang, Yang Jiurong, Huang Xiamon, Yan Wenhan, Xing Qingxian and Lu Dachun – alleged that they had been subjected to torture and degrading treatment during their detention by police.They said they had been slapped, interrogated for long periods, deprived of sleep and subjected to the “tiger bench”, a form of torture involving stretching and shackling of limbs, resulting in extreme strain on the victim’s knees.Their lawyers contend that the trial was not fair as they were not permitted to submit evidence to defend their clients and were constantly interrupted when making their legal arguments. Instead, the evidence allowed was mainly based on police statements and interrogation notes, much of it contradictory.  “Chinese officials need to revisit the events, allegations and sentences in this case,” said Catherine Baber. “The 10 should be immediately released and the government should ensure peaceful protests are allowed to take place.”