China: Trial of prominent activist ‘The Butcher’ a cruel farce
The Chinese authorities must end their persecution of prominent activist Wu Gan and immediately and unconditionally release him, Amnesty International said, ahead of his expected trial on Monday.
Wu Gan’s trial is a cruel farce. He is merely being punished for refusing to stop his innovative and legitimate campaigns for justice in China.
Wu Gan, better known by his pen name ‘The Super Vulgar Butcher’, is to be tried at a closed court hearing in Tianjin for “subverting state power” – a charge that carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The court claims the trial should be closed due to “confidential information” in the evidence.
“Wu Gan’s trial is a cruel farce and it is inconceivable that he will receive a fair hearing in what is a politically motivated prosecution. He is merely being punished for refusing to stop his innovative and legitimate campaigns for justice in China,” said Patrick Poon, China Researcher at Amnesty International.
“The authorities’ decision to hold the trial behind closed-doors appears to be a calculated and shameless attempt to avoid scrutiny of the gross injustice they are inflicting on Wu Gan.”
Wu Gan has been held in prolonged pre-trial detention for nearly 27 months. He told his lawyers he has been tortured during this time, while his family have also been prevented from visiting him.
The prominent activist was first detained at a demonstration outside a courthouse in May 2015 while protesting against an alleged miscarriage of justice in a death penalty case from 2000. The four men convicted in the death penalty case were subsequently exonerated in 2016 and each received 2.27 million yuan (approximately US$340,000) in compensation for the wrongful convictions.
“It is a bitter irony that Wu Gan’s fight for justice for others has ultimately cost him his own freedom,” said Patrick Poon.
Following his detention, state media denounced Wu Gan’s personal life and previous activism.
Since 2009, Wu Gan has been a high-profile activist in China and is recognized for his cutting-edge tactics of connecting online and offline actions, raising awareness of human rights abuses, and raising funds online to support his activities.
Shortly before his detention, Wu Gan offered a financial reward for any video footage of the fatal shooting of a man by two police officers in Qing’An, Heilongjiang province, in an attempt to collect evidence for the case.
Prior to his detention, he worked as an administrative assistant in the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, which has worked on many sensitive cases. The firm was targeted by the authorities during the recent crackdown against human rights lawyers, and was accused in state media of being at the centre of “a major criminal gang”. Nearly 250 lawyers and activists have been caught up in the crackdown.