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China: Verdict announced in Fujian Three netizen trial

After 57 depositions, initial handling as a state secret case, ten months and three days in court, sentences were handed down Friday to the Fujian Three; aside from being the only prosecutions resulting from the alleged rape and murder of Yan Xiaoling (严晓玲) at the hands of police, also remarkable about this trial was the number of people who rallied in protest outside the courthouse Friday.

Lawyer for one of the defendants, Liu Xiaoyuan (刘晓原), updated his blog [zh] soon after the trial ended:

正如我所预料的,今天庭审中作了当庭宣判,但出乎预料的是,罪名竟然又由诬告陷害罪变回了诽谤罪。范燕琼被判有期徒刑两年,游精佑被判处有期徒刑一年,吴华英被判处有期徒刑一年。

今天围观人群上千人,网民们既理性又激动。今天的庭审,也让我见证了司法的黑暗。

Just as I predicted, a verdict was delivered in today's court session, but what I hadn't expected was that the charge would actually be changed from false accusation to slander. Fan Yanqiong was sentenced to a term of two years, You JIngyou was sentenced to a term of one year, and Wu Huaying was sentenced to a term of one year.

More than a thousand people gathered outside today, netizens were both level-headed and excited. In court today, I also witnessed the dark side to the legal system.

Leading up to Friday's trial day, it was reported that Lin Xiuying, mother of the deceased, had been offered money and a house in exchange for keeping quiet; according to Liu, attempts to call Lin as a witness were met with the court's refusal. The night before the trial, Lin along with several others connected to the case, was detained by police; Friday morning she somehow managed to free herself and joined the crowd gathered outside the courthouse where an attempt by authorities to whisk her off in a van was stifled by onlookers.

Unremarkable about this case, writes former CCP Central Party School director Du Guang (杜光) in a guest post on Liu's blog, is how it fits within the larger ongoing trend of cracking down on rights activists:

原来范、吴、游等人都是维权运动的积极分子。范燕琼的女儿说她母亲经常同情弱者,帮别人写文章写状子,曾因维权和筹备成立社会团体,多次遭到抓捕、抄家,甚至长期羁押。我从范燕琼的博客“神州有泪”上看到,就在她被捕前的一个多月时间里,她就写了七八篇维权和纪念“liu四”的文章。6月6日她前往武夷山看望维权朋友,还受到便衣跟踪偷拍。这次她在网上披露林秀英的口述材料,引起海内外的强烈反应,接着又著文揭露官方恐吓林秀英,成为被拘捕的直接原因。游精佑是毕业于西南交通大学的桥梁工程师,同事们反映他工作出色、技术精湛,为人谦虚,责任心强;在出色完成本职工作的同时,他多年来致力于帮助弱者维权,因此曾多次受到警方的传讯、警告。这次被捕是因为他根据范燕琼的文章,为林秀英制作了“自说自话”的视频,在网上广为传播。吴华英更是亲身体会蒙受冤案的痛苦,她弟弟吴昌龙因2001年6月24日发生在福清市纪委门口的爆炸案被羁押判刑,进入二审后以事实不清、证据不足,迄今没有结案。在几次审理中,吴昌龙和其他当事人都否认涉嫌犯罪,且指控侦查期间遭到刑讯逼供,所有律师也为他们作无罪辩护,但都无济于事。八年多来,吴华英四处奔走,上访申诉,因此多次被行政拘留。所以她对林秀英特别同情,为她制作了录音录像,并且发到网上。

It turns out, Fan, Wu and You are all rights activists. Fan Yanqiong's daughter has said that her mother often sympathizes with the weak, helping others write articles or file complaints, and had even established an organization through which to carry out social activism, and as a result of which had been arrested, had her house searched, even placed under long-term detention. On Fan Yanqiong's blog, Tears of China, I see that just over a month before she was arrested she wrote 7-8 posts related to activism and to commemorate June 4.

On June 6, she went up to the Wuyi mountains to see a social activist friend and was followed and filmed by undercover police. Her publishing of Lin Xiuling's oral statements online created a large stir both domestically and overseas, and was followed by the release of articles detailing fear tactics used by authorities against Lin Xiuying which ended up leading directly to her arrest. You Jingyou is a bridge engineer and graduate of Southwestern Jiaotong University; his colleagues all describe him as an outstanding employee, skilled, modest and highly responsible. For many years, at the same time that he was outstanding in completing work required by his day job, he was also devoted helping the weak uphold their rights, and as a result was questioned and warned by police on multiple occasions. The reason he was arrested this time is due to an “in her own words” video he filmed of Lin Xiuying after seeing Fan Yanqiong's articles, which he then spread around online.

Wu Huaying, familiar with the pain of injustice after her younger brother, Wu Changlong, was arrested following an explosion on June 24, 2001 at the front gate of the Fuqing Disciplinary Commission building. Through to the end of the second trial, facts were unclear and evidence was lacking, and the case has yet to closed even to this day. Throughout the several hearings, Wu Changlong and others being tried all deny their involvement in the crime, and claim they were tortured into giving confessions during the investigation period. Their lawyers have all tried to make the case of their innocence, but none have yet to succeed. Eight years have gone by and Wu Huaying is still on the move, petitioning and appealing, and has been placed in administrative detention multiple times as a result. Which is why she has such sympathy for Lin Xiuying and making recordings, publishing them online.

我从这些材料里领悟到,范燕琼等被拘捕,不仅仅是因为替林秀英鸣不平。他们多年来的维权活动,早就使他们成为官方的眼中之钉,为林秀英鸣冤,只不过是压垮骆驼的最后一根稻草。所以,这个“诬告陷害”案的实质,不在于严晓玲的死因和某些干部被“诬陷”,而是官方对维权运动的打压。

I can see from what I've read about this case that the reason Fan Yanqiong and others were arrested is not solely due to their speaking out on behalf of Lin Xiuying. It's their years of social activism which long ago brought them into sight of authorities, and seeking redress for Lin Xiuying now was merely the straw that broke the camel's back. The nature of this “false accusation” case lies not in Yan Xiaoling's cause of death or in that some cadres were “accused”, but in official suppression of the rights defense movement.

Notices were reportedly sent out to Chinese media, banning them from reporting on the trial, although some in southern Guangdong province carried the story.

Liu also notes that while Xinhua alone was allowed into the courtroom on Friday, even reporting the official side to the story was enough to get the article harmonized.

Picture 4

Nonetheless, it seems the trial generated enough interest that the #fjwangmin Fujian netizen hashtag topped Google China's list of search keywords yesterday and for Han Han to even write about the case, which became a topic for discussion itself. Han's post has been deleted, but a copy is still up on Liu's blog. In his somewhat flippant tone, Han goes to the heart of the matter in the Yan Xiaoling case and many others like it, why holding secret autopsies or denying them altogether can lead to mass incidents and damage government credibility:

主人公突然死了,家属怀疑是被轮奸致死,提出尸检,尸检的结果是主人公自顾自病死,并非强奸致死。家属怀疑警方包庇罪犯,提出还要尸检,但是相关部门并不配合。家属的情绪很不稳定。三位维权人士听闻此事,以死者是被强奸至死的观点,的将此事件做成了视频和文章,转发到国内外论坛。当地公安召开新闻发布会,强调死者是自然病死,随后,参与制作视频发帖等人当地公安机关逮捕,其中主要负责的三人,二审被判有期徒刑一年到两年。

The principal dies suddenly and the family, suspecting she was gang raped, leading to her death, proposes an autopsy, the results of which are that she died of illness and not being gang raped. The family, suspicious that police are covering up for the perpetrators, reissue their request for an autopsy, to which the relevant authorities do not comply. The family become emotionally unstable. Three rights activists get wind of this, take the view that the deceased was raped until her death, make this into recordings and articles, posting them to forums inside and outside China. The local police hold a press conference, emphasizing that the deceased died of natural causes, following which, those who took part in producing the video and posting the information are arrested by local police, with the three key figures being sentenced at their second hearing to terms of 1-2 years.

事情大致上就是这样的,就案情本身,关键是死者到底是怎么死的,这个我不知道,我也没有证据,所以无法站在维权者或者政府的任何一方说事。政府认为,只要他们宣布了,这就叫证据,维权者认为,只要他们调查了,这也是证据。这件事情我并不了解,在其他众多的维权事件中,政府一定全错么,不一定,维权者一定全对么,也不一定。但是为什么政府永远表现出全错的态势呢?

That's more or less how the story goes, and in the case itself, what's key is how exactly it was that the deceased died. This, I have no idea, nor do I have evidence, so I can't take the side of the rights activists or of the government in giving an opinion. The government's view is that anything they publish is to be considered evidence, and that anything they find during investigations is to be considered evidence also. I'm not familiar with this case, but in other mass rights defense incidents, is the government necessarily always wrong? Not always. Are the rights defenders necessarily always right? Not always, either. So then why does the government always act like it's completely in the wrong?

其实很多事情其实都是当地政府自己弄大的。如果他是真的自身突发疾病死亡,那么便让有公信力的地方来尸检,说服家属便是。很多网友说,政府急需成立廉政公署,来树立公信力,我认为廉政公署没有用,香港很少发生腐败事件,其实并不是拥有了廉政公署这四个字,而是因为廉政公署是独立的这三个字。我认为,大陆现在的国情是不适合成立一个独立的类似廉政公署的机构的,如果一成立然后来真的,那几乎所有公务员及其亲属都嗖一下不见了。但是,大陆最最急需成立的一个部门乃是独立的“尸检部”,这个尸检部必须拥有向廉政公署一样的独立性和公信力,必要的时候做到电视直播尸检。仔细回想中国近几年发生的公众事件,有多少是因为尸检而生。尸检部是维护社会稳定的重要部门,因为现在的尸检结果,无论是真的假的,老百姓都不相信。排除这件事情,虽然我认为,很可能不少的尸检结果是正确的,但老百姓的怀疑也不是错误的。一个喜欢先定性再定罪的政府,其绝招也很容易被老百姓学去,所以说,我们要原谅老百姓动不动就认为自己的亲人是被人害死,而罪犯是被政府包庇了,尸检是被政府操纵了。因为在这个社会里,你不讲证据,那我也不讲证据,你不透明,我就猜测,我一猜测,你就说我诽谤,我再追究,你就说这是国家机密,我一闹大,你就……你就……你就反而省事了,什么事情都不用做了,自然会有相关部门通知新闻部门这事情不准报道。但是,这一切埋下的都是仇恨的种子。

Actually, a lot of things are actually blown out of proportion by local governments themselves. If [s]he truly did just die suddenly from illness, then have the autopsy be done someplace with credibility and leave the family convinced. Many netizens say, the government urgently needs to set up an ICAC and establish public credibility. I think an ICAC would be useless. Incidents of corruption seldom take place in Hong Kong, the difference being not the word ICAC itself, but in the fact that it is independent. The way I see it, with the way things are now, the mainland isn't suited to establish an independent organization similar to the ICAC. It one were set up and actually put to work, then nearly all civil servants and their families would disappear in one big swoosh.

On the other hand, a department the mainland needs far, for more urgently, is an independent “autopsy department”, and this autopsy department would be required to be just as independent and credible to the public as the ICAC, doing autopsies on television when required. Thinking carefully to mass incidents that have taken place in China over the past few years, how many of them began as a result of an autopsy? An autopsy department is an important department in maintaining social stability, because regardless of whether they're true or false, autopsy results today just aren't believed by the public. This incident aside, while I do feel that it's very possible that many autopsy result reports are accurate, the public's suspicions are not unfounded.

With a government that likes to cast guilt first and the crime later, it's not hard for the public to catch on, which is why I think we need to forgive the public when they automatically assume their relatives have been murdered, that the government is protecting the perpetrator, and that the government tampered with the autopsy. Because in this society, if you don't form your conclusions on evidence, then I don't need evidence either; if you're not transparent, then I'll speculate, and the minute I do, you say I'm guilty of slander; if I keep with it, then you say it's a state secret. If I make a big deal of it, you'll just…you'll just…well, you'll spare yourself the trouble of doing anything and instead just have the relevant departments notify news departments not to report on the incident. But then, the only thing that ends up burying are seeds of hate.

所以说,对于地方政府,这事情其实一开始就很好解决,绝对公正的尸检,如果真的是病死,说服家属,如果真的是被杀的,捉拿凶手。退一步讲,这个事情完全可以放到台面上,公开的去说清楚,大家拿各自的证据来说事,但官方是从来不屑于这么做的,他们认为这样降低了他们的威信。而且我们的官方永远是一开口就置自己于不利,你从来看不到他们坦诚的用我们人类正常交流的语言说话的时刻,永远用没有人性的官腔去对抗老百姓的哭诉。听音乐的朋友都知道,唱腔是多么的重要,一个你讨厌的唱腔,唱什么歌都是错的。

Which is why, with regards to the local government, this could have been dealt with easily: make the autopsy completely open. If it really was a death of illness, then the family will be convinced. If it really was a murder, then apprehend the killer. Backing up a step, this could totally be dealt with on the table. Explain things clearly and publicly, and let people see the evidence and decide for themselves. Except that authorities wouldn't ever stoop to something like that, in their eyes that would just diminish their prestige. That and whenever our authorities do open their mouths, it's never for their benefit. There'll never come a time when you see them actually speaking like normal human beings do and being honest at the same time, all you'll ever see is them using inhuman officialese to fight off cries from the public. Friends who listen to music will know how important the vocals are; if it's a voice you hate, it doesn't matter what they sing, it'll all be off.

现在,那位女孩子是怎么死的已经不重要了,更重要的是那三位维权者的判决。至于诽谤罪,看来是非判不可了。类似的罪名不能从法律上去诠释,而是要从人情世故上去找结果。因为面子对于政府是很重要的,人家都关了你这么长时间了,尤其是因为这个理由,现在把你放出来,你法院是能得到喝彩,但是人家公安以后怎么混,都在一个县城里,抬头不见低头见,办公室不见桑拿见的,这见面了还怎么相处。其实这么多年,大家都误会了人民法院的意思,人民法院并不是指属于人民的并为人民服务的法院,而是指只负责解决人民与人民之间的矛盾的法院。

Now, however it was that that girl died isn't important anymore. What's more important is the verdict handed down to those three rights activists. As for the slander charge, it seems that was a given. Similar crimes can't be explained explained through laws, but can only be determined at the interpersonal level. Because face is so important to the government and after all they have had you locked away for so long already, particularly for this very reason, to let you out now would cheers for the courthouse itself, but what are you going to do about the police, this being a small county after all, there being no avoidance. If you dodge them at the office, they'll probably see you at the sauna, and how would you get along in a place like that. Actually, after all these years, people still misunderstand the People's Court. The People's Court isn't in fact directly answerable to the people or a court that serves the people, but rather is only a court responsible for resolving conflicts between individuals.

这三位替他人维权的网友,被判了一年到两年以后,很多网友认为,这件事情代表了互联网的黑暗时期将要到来,代表了维权人士将要遭到打击报复,代表了网络的监督将要受到取缔和法办,代表了言论自由的彻底消失,我认为其实这些都不是,小小的一个县城的公检法,你不能把人家想的那么深邃,其实这件事情只代表了一个意义,传达了一个讯息,那就是——让你见识见识我的厉害。

With these three netizens being sentenced to 1-2 years as a result of having helped someone else uphold their rights, many netizens wonder if this incident symbolizes a new dark age for the Internet approaching, or if it means there will be a vendetta against rights defenders, or if public scrutiny online will be clamped down upon legally, or if freedom of speech is going to disappear entirely. I don't see signs of any of those taking place; these were just the actions of law enforcement bodies in a tiny county town, not that much thought needs to be put into it. Actually, the only significance of this incident is the message it sends: watch and learn how bad I can be.

是的,让你见识见识我的厉害。我们见识了,我们都很害怕,但是我们也不知道,你们都在害怕些什么。

Yes, watch and learn how bad I can be. We're learning, and we're all very afraid. The one thing we don't know is just what it is that you're afraid of.

The netizens who traveled to protest the trial came prepared to blog it, uploading a steady stream of video clips, audio tweets and photos while several hundred police kept them cordoned off at a distance from the courthouse; here are a few of the photos, the first two taken by citizen journalist Tiger Temple and the remainder posted anonymously:


Lin Xiuying, mother of the deceased


Lawyer for the defendants, Liu Xiaoyuan


Crowd gathered outside the courthouse


Three daughters of each of the three defendants, Lin Jingyi, You Yujing and Du Mei

Related:

Lin Jingyi's blog post [zh] about proceedings of the netizen trial: http://liu6465.fyfz.cn/art/610530.htm

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