Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that three Shanghai petitioners have been sentenced to prison terms after being detained around the time of the meeting of the intergovernmental Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in June.
The three petitioners, Du Yangming, Wang Shuizhen and Tian Baocheng, appeared in Shanghai’s Zhabei District People’s Court on November 8 and 9 on charges of “causing a disturbance.” All three were sentenced on December 18: Tian Baocheng and Du Yangming to two-and-a-half years in prison, and Wang Shuizhen to one year. Tian Baocheng’s wife, Zhang Cuiping, was earlier sentenced to one-and-a-half years of Reeducation Through Labor (RTL).
The judgment against Tian Baocheng states that on March 15, 2006, Tian and Du Yangming disturbed public order by refusing to pay for use of a public toilet near the Xinhua News Agency branch office in Hengshan Road, and for instigating other petitioners to berate Xinhua employees. Although the alleged offence occurred in March, Tian and Du were not detained until June 2, around the time of the SCO meeting.
Wang Shuizhen was detained on June 5, 2006, on her way to accompany lawyer Zheng Enchong’s wife, Jiang Meili, to Tilanqiao Prison to await Zheng’s release upon completion of his three-year prison sentence. Wang was convicted and sentenced for attempting to attend a memorial for late Party secretary Zhao Ziyang in Beijing in April.
All three petitioners have previously served terms of imprisonment or RTL for their petitioning activities, and have suffered physical abuse in detention.
HRIC condemns the use of minor offenses to harass and prevent petitioners from staging peaceful protests during the high-profile SCO event. The disproportionate prison sentences imposed on Du Yangming, Wang Shuizhen, Tian Baocheng and Zhang Cuiping sends a chilling message to Chinese citizens seeking to exercise their rights to freedom of expression.