Wed, Feb 01, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Chinese dissident tried over Skype messages, poem

Reuters, Beijing

Chinese prosecutors cited a poem and messages sent on Skype against a dissident who stood trial yesterday, his son and his lawyer said, in the latest case highlighting the Chinese Communist Party’s drive to silence political challengers.

Veteran activist Zhu Yufu (朱虞夫) faced trial in Hangzhou where police arrested him in April last year and charged him with “inciting subversion of state power,” his lawyer, Li Dunyong (李敦勇), said.

The court did not deliver its verdict straight away. However, Zhu, 60, appears likely to follow other Chinese dissidents who have received stiff prison terms from the party-run judiciary on subversion charges, which are often used to punish ardent advocates of democratic change.

In Zhu’s case, the prosecutors cited his poem, It’s time, as well as text messages he sent using the Skype online chat service, Li said.

There was no suggestion that Skype helped police to collect evidence, he said by telephone.

“They took his computer away from his home and went through it,” he said of the Hangzhou police. “His Internet contacts and password were saved on it, with automatic access, and when the police accessed it, they could open the records of text messages saved on Skype.”

China’s leaders are steeling for a leadership hand over late this year, and their long-standing determination to stifle political challenges is likely to deepen. The government is also trying to quell flare-ups of protest in Tibetan areas.

Like two dissidents given sentences of 10 and nine years in December, Zhu was jailed before for his pro-democracy activism, making it more likely that he too will get a heavy sentence. He was jailed in 1999 for seven years and in 2007 for two years, the Chinese Human Rights Defenders said.

The charges against Zhu also centered on the poem, which he circulated online, Li said.

A version of the poem that has circulated on the Internet, declares: “It’s time, Chinese people!/The square belongs to everyone/the feet are yours/it’s time to use your feet and take to the square to make a choice.”

References to a “square” might evoke memories among many Chinese people of Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the epicenter of pro-democracy protests in 1989 that were quelled by armed troops. However, the poem did not mention that.

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