China sentences 'Vulgar Butcher' activist to 8 years' prison

2017-12-26 11:17
Wu Gan also known as the Ultra Vulgar Butcher is seen behind bars at police station in Nanchang city in eastern China's Jiangxi province. (AP, file)

Wu Gan also known as the Ultra Vulgar Butcher is seen behind bars at police station in Nanchang city in eastern China's Jiangxi province. (AP, file)

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Beijing - A prominent activist who called himself the Ultra Vulgar Butcher as he mocked and pressured Chinese officials was sentenced by a court Tuesday to eight years in prison for subversion.

The Tianjin No 2 Intermediate People's Court found activist Wu Gan guilty of subverting state power and handed down his sentence.

Wu will appeal the sentence, his lawyer Ge Yongxi told The Associated Press.

In court, Wu struck an irreverent note in his remarks following the sentence, saying he was "grateful to the party for granting me this lofty honour", according to Ge, who was in court.

"I will remain true to our original aspiration, roll up my sleeves and make an extra effort," Wu said, playing on well-known phrases Chinese President Xi Jinping often uses to exhort Communist Party officials to improve their work.

Illegal public gatherings

Wu had become known for attention-grabbing campaigns. In one, he posed for online portraits brandishing knives that he said he would use to "slaughter the pigs" among local officials who'd done wrong.

Wu was among the first activists and lawyers caught up in an intense crackdown by authorities that began in 2015. His case was heard in court in August after a detention of more than two years.

The court said on Tuesday in an online statement that Wu had made many remarks online that "attacked state power".

It accused him of hyping cases that "discredited state organs" by organising illegal public gatherings, causing trouble, and making abusive comments online about other people.

It said such actions were part of a series of criminal activities seeking to "overthrow state power and the socialist system".

Wu had also worked as an administrative assistant at the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, which had worked on sensitive cases and became the focus of the authorities' crackdown that began in July 2015.

Hundreds of lawyers, activists and others were detained in a co-ordinated nationwide sweep that sent a chill through China's activist community. Many were later released.

Vaguely defined subversion charges are frequently levelled against human rights activists and perceived political foes of the ruling Communist Party.

Wu had been detained in May 2015, after travelling to the south-eastern city of Nanchang to put pressure on a judge.

Defence lawyers had been denied access to files in a case in which four men were serving prison time for a double murder despite a later confession from a fifth man.

Wu had said on social media that he planned to hold a mock funeral for the judge, and was arrested after unfurling a banner that insulted him.

Human rights groups have said that the authorities are persecuting Wu and that it is ironic that his fight for justice for the four men - who were exonerated in 2016 - had cost him his own freedom.

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