CECC Chairs Say Pu Zhiqiang Trial a New Low for Human Rights in China and an Indictment of Its Legal System

CECC Chairs Say Pu Zhiqiang Trial a New Low for Human Rights in China and an Indictment of Its Legal System

Congressional-Executive Commission on China

Media Contact: 202-226-3777

December 14, 2015

(Washington, DC)—Representative Chris Smith and Senator Marco Rubio, the Chair and Cochair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), issued a statement today on the trial of Pu Zhiqiang, one of China’s most prominent public interest lawyers.  He is accused of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” due to seven microblog posts that allegedly criticized the Chinese government’s ethnic policy and that mocked several government officials.  Mr. Pu was a participant in the 1989 Tiananmen protests whom Chinese authorities detained in May 2014 in connection with a private gathering Pu attended to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen and its violent suppression.

“Holding sham trials to convict rights defenders does nothing to demonstrate the Communist Party’s strength or enhance its international prestige.  Whatever the verdict may be, this trial is an indictment of the Chinese legal system and not Pu Zhiqiang,” said CECC Chair Rep. Chris Smith.  “President Xi has waged an extraordinary assault on rights defenders and civil society in recent years.  Until the release of Pu Zhiqiang and the many other political prisoners is a clear and consistent priority of U.S.-China relations, the Chinese government will continue to believe that it can act with impunity and without any consequences.  To send a clear message, the Administration should bar every judge, prosecutor, and security official associated with this trial from getting U.S. entry visas and taking part in U.S.-funded programs.”                   

“Even by China’s standards, the spectacle both inside and outside the court surrounding the trial of Pu Zhiqiang today was a mockery of justice and rule of law,” said CECC Cochair Senator Marco Rubio.  “Mr. Pu is the victim of political persecution by an authoritarian regime that is threatened by any form of individual expression deviating from Communist Party orthodoxy.  While a verdict has not yet been announced, we can say with certainty that today marks a new low point in Xi Jinping’s ‘China Dream’ which is by virtually every measure a nightmare for China’s dissidents, lawyers, journalists, and millions of others, Mr. Pu foremost among them.”

Earlier this year, the CECC launched an initiative called “Free China’s Heroes,” in which individual political prisoners were highlighted to raise awareness about the specifics of their cases and the status of their unjust imprisonment. Pu Zhiqiang was among those featured. His case is also part of the Commission’s Political Prisoner Database (PPD), which contains records on more than 1,300 political and religious prisoners currently known or believed to be detained or imprisoned. The Commission treats as a political prisoner an individual detained for exercising his or her human rights under international law, such as peaceful assembly, freedom of religion, freedom of association, and free expression, including the freedom to advocate peaceful social or political change and to criticize government policy or government officials. In most cases, prisoners in the PPD were detained or imprisoned for attempting to exercise rights guaranteed to them by China’s Constitution and law, by international law, or both. Additionally, Pu’s case was highlighted in the “Freedom of Expression” chapter in the CECC’s Annual Report issued in October.