22 December 2015, for immediate release

Contacts: Tenzin Jigdal (Tibetan, English) + 91 9882255516

Penghsuan Lee (Chinese, English) + 886 912545542

International Tibet Network’s Secretariat expressed deep concern today at the verdict of Pu Zhiqiang, prominent Chinese human rights lawyer and outstanding advocate. After 19 months of imprisonment he was given a 3-year sentence by the Beijing Intermediate Court, having been convicted for “inciting ethnic hatred”, “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” on his social media posts. His sentence has been suspended and it is hoped he will soon be released from custody. [1]

“Any sentence is an outrage, given that Pu Zhiqiang was merely exercising his right to free speech,” said Penghsuan Lee, International Tibet Network’s East Asia Regional Coordinator. “He has already spent 19 months in jail and should be released immediately. The trial and sentencing of Pu Zhiqiang, who has spoken out against China’s policies towards Uyghurs and Tibetans, illustrates yet again the mass crackdown on free speech under the leadership of Xi Jinping.”

Pu Zhiqiang was a veteran of Tiananmen Square who, during his legal career, defended a number of high profile political detainees, including the artist Ai Weiwei, Chinese writer and activist Ten Zuoren. In 2010 he represented prominent Tibetan environmental activist Karma Samdrup, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison. At the trial, Pu Zhiqiang said “The court completely ignored the facts, trampled on the legal system and violated Karma’s humanity.” [2]

Pu Zhiqiang was detained in May 2014 after attending a private event to mark the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. A number of charges were laid against him relating to criticisms on social media of China’s policies on ethnic minorities. In one of the messages Pu Zhiqiang wrote: “If you want to claim Xinjiang a part of China, don’t treat it like a colony and stop acting like a conqueror or plunderer.” [3]

“We hope that international scrutiny of this case contributed to the decision to suspend Pu Zhiqiang’s sentence,” said Tenzin Jigdal, International Coordinator of Tibet Network. “We remain deeply concerned about the deterioration in his health and the considerable difficulties and restrictions he will face after his illegal detention – a fact of life for many Tibetan, Chinese and Uyghur prisoners after their release.”

There were outrageous scenes outside Pu Zhiqiang’s trial on 14 December. Only his wife Meng Qun was permitted to observe and supporters, international media and foreign diplomats were roughly man-handled, dispersed and in a number of cases detained. [4]

[1] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-35157525

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/25/world/asia/25tibet.html?_r=0

[3]「說新疆是中國的,就別把它當殖民地,別當征服者和掠奪者。」 http://trad.cn.rfi.fr/中國/20151210-浦志強被羈押五百天後將於12月14日一審開庭

[4] http://www.ibtimes.com/pu-zhiqiang-trial-chinese-police-manhandle-foreign-journalists-diplomats-prominent-2223664