China: Dissident Prosecuted for Leaking Staged Suicide Photo

Dissident Zhu Chengzhi [zh] has been charged with inciting the subversion of state power for investigating the death of labour activist Li Wangyang while he was in police custody.

Zhu was given a 10-day detention back in June 6, 2012 under the charge of “disrupting social order” after he distributed a photo of  what many say document a ‘staged suicide’ on the Internet. However, the Hunan police decided to use a more serious allegation, inciting subversion of state power, for prosecuting him in July 25. For minor cases (inciting to sedition), the penalty is under 5 year-imprisonment, while for more serious cases (sedition), the penalty can be more than 10 years, such as the case of Nobel peace price winner Liu Xiaobo's 11-year-imprisonment sentence.

Zhu Chengzhi's profile picture on Twitter

Who is Zhu Chengzhi?

A website, Free Chengzhi, has been launched to campaign for Zhu freedom since his first arrest in June. One of the website's contributor, Li Huaping offers more details about Zhu's life:

Zhu Chengzhi, a father figure, a Chinese citizen, was born in Shaoyao City at Hunan Province in 1950. I also know that he is of the same age of Li Wangyang, the late activist and one of China’s longest -serving political prisoners. Both Zhu and Li graduated from No. 4th Middle School of Shaoyang. If you meet Zhu in a street, he is one of the million ordinary elders of China. If you pay attention, you’ll notice this elder possesses wisdom.

Zhu Chengzhi speaks slowly. From the calm words, one can feel how firm his belief is. We chatted the inescapable fear: our land, air and water are all ruled by the only ideology. We agree that encouraging more and more people to overcome the fear is an important task. A most important task is that we should be role models. Through ourselves, we can encourage more people to overcome their fear and break silence. When talking about Li Wangyang’s sister Li Wangling, Zhu clearly stated that “The foremost important task for us is to help Wangling overcome her fear.”

Staged Suicide Evidence

According to Zhu's family, the Hunan government decided to punish him with sedition allegations after he refused to sign a document promising not to pursue investigations into Li's death. The official arrest document[zh] was issued on July 25:

Arrest document of Li Chengzhi. Widely circulated in Facebook.

On Weibo, the human rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan comments on Zhu's arrest [zh]:

@刘晓原律师 :朱承志只是关注了卲阳李先生之死,并自拍了一个事件视频,这难道就涉嫌"煽颠"犯罪了吗?邵阳警方太虚弱,也太恐"颠"了吧?用"煽颠"来指控,实在是荒唐!

刘晓原律师: Zhu Chengzhi only showed concern for Mr Li's death and shot a video, how can this be inciting subversion or a crime? The police in Shaoyang is too weak and too terrified… It is absolutely ridiculous to make such an allegation.

Hong Kong based Weibo user Ai Dangzheng says [zh]:


@艾丹誠:Today I feel very dreadful. Apart from the lingering flu, the most outrageous news is the arrest of Zhu Chengzhi. CCTVB [Note: the largest TV station in Hong Kong is Television Broadcast (TVB), netizens called it CCTV-B to mock at their self-censored practice] only shows the news about Liu Xiang's surgery. The news department is really good at polishing shoes. I don't care if Liu Xiang died. Zhu Chengzhi, please hang on. We have less and less righteous people like you. Will help out with the signature campaign of Sholarism [zh] after visiting the clinic.

On Twitter, activists are more vocal in expressing their support for Zhu [zh]:


@hesuoge He voiced out for those who he doesn't know. He voiced out for his old fellow classmate. He voiced out for humanity and justice. Now he is trapped in the grinding machine and we are on our way to join him. They want to prove their legitimacy with the Olympic golden award, but what happened to Zhu and others is proving that everything is sinful. Please remember to spread his name: Zhu-Cheng-Zhi.


‏@hu_jia July 25 is the last date of 7 days x 7 cycles of Li Wangyang's death [Note: the day when Li's soul is supposed to leave the human world according to Chinese folk belief]. To arrest Zhu Chengzhi under the allegation of “state sedition” shows that the Hunan legal system and party secretary Zhou Qiang are determined to jeopardize citizen rights and legal justice. The case of Li Wangyang can be merged into the “Li Wangyang-Zhu Chengzhi” case, using sedition to deprive citizens of their rights.


@wlh8964 Zhu Chengzhi is now 62. He doesn't like jail. Some cold blooded people said that he is pursuing fame. This is wrong. He just refuses to lie and defends his principles as a human being. The price of jail is too huge. Freedom is life. Even if you are not helping, don't make such sarcastic remarks.


I changed my profile picture into Zhu Chengzhi's photo. He was jailed for shooting a video and photo of Li Wangyang's death and he pays the most precious price for a citizen reporter's right — Freedom!
The number one cause for suicide is untreated depression. Depression is treatable and suicide is preventable. You can get help from confidential support lines for the suicidal and those in emotional crisis. Visit to find a suicide prevention helpline in your country.


  • siweiluozi

    A clarification is perhaps needed in the second paragraph, which is a bit confusing. Zhu Chengzhi has been charged with “inciting subversion of state power” (sometimes this is translated as “sedition”) under Article 105(2) of the Criminal Law. This is the exact same offense for which Liu Xiaobo was convicted. Under Article 105(2), there is a range of possible punishments, ranging from five years or less (for “ordinary” offenses) to 5-15 years (for “major” offenses).

    “Inciting subversion” should be distinguished from the offense of “subversion” (Article 105[1]), which is a separate offense. For more on this point, see:

  • Cleo

    You have to think that when someone grows their facial hair so specifically and intentionally that there is motive and ego involved, you know? I’m glad it’s so off-putting. It’s not very Confucian to be so self centered when you are supposed to be serving others.

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