Jiangsu Court Affirms 10-Year Sentence of Guo Quan for Organizing Political Party Online

January 21, 2010

In December 2009, the Jiangsu Provincial High People's Court affirmed a lower court's 10-year sentence of former professor and past member of the state-approved China Democratic League, Guo Quan, after he attempted to organize the "China New Democracy Party" and used the Internet to seek members and disseminate his political views. The appellate court did not open its proceedings to the public and waited beyond the 45-day limit provided under Chinese law before handing down its decision. Chinese citizens who attempt to form independent political parties and use the Internet to organize and peacefully express their opposition to the Communist Party frequently are targeted for harassment, detention, and imprisonment by the Chinese government. In addition, abuses in the Chinese criminal justice system frequently deny criminal defendants―particularly in politically sensitive cases―a fair trial.

On December 22, 2009, the Jiangsu Provincial High People's Court upheld the 10-year sentence against Guo Quan, formerly a university professor and past member of the state-approved China Democratic League, according to a copy of the court's judgment published by Boxun on January 4, 2010. In October, the Suqian Intermediate People's Court in Jiangsu handed down the sentence, which also included three years' deprivation of political rights, finding that Guo used the Internet to organize an "illegal" political party called the "China New Democracy Party," recruited members for the party, published numerous "reactionary" articles online, called for a seven-day stay-at-home boycott of the government, and sought to "overthrow" the socialist system. For these alleged activities, the court found Guo guilty of subversion, a crime under Article 105, Paragraph 1 of the PRC Criminal Law. The trial court emphasized Guo's interactions with other individuals in seeking their membership in the China New Democracy Party, and his calls for an end to one-party rule and civil disobedience, but cites no instance of Guo advocating violence.

On appeal, the Jiangsu High People's Court did not open a court session to hear the case and waited beyond the 45-day limit provided under Chinese law before handing down its decision, according to a December 23, 2009, Radio Free Asia (RFA) article. According to Article 187 of the PRC Criminal Procedure Law (CPL), an appellate court shall "open a court session to hear a case of appeal" and may decide not to open a court session only "if after consulting the case file, interrogating the defendant and heeding the opinions of the other parties, defenders and agents ad litem, the collegial panel thinks the criminal facts are clear." According to the RFA article, Guo's lawyers had argued to the court to open its proceedings. One of the lawyers, Cheng Hai, told RFA: "According to [Chinese] criminal law requirements, under normal conditions a session should be opened in an [appeal], because the point of the [appeal] is to review the legality of the original decision. Only if the facts are very clear, and only after the opinions of the parties and lawyers have been solicited can a court session not be opened. But the problem is that the dispute in this case is very large." The RFA article also noted that the appellate court accepted the case on November 2 but that a month and three weeks had passed without a decision. Under Article 196 of the CPL, the appellate court "shall conclude the trial of the case within one month, or one and a half months at the latest" from the date the case is accepted. Article 196 allows for a further one-month extension upon approval of the high people's court.

The trial court earlier had relied on procedural postponements to delay its verdict against Guo until October 16, 2009, after celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1. The case of another Chinese citizen who has called for greater democracy and human rights in China―that of prominent intellectual Liu Xiaobo―also has been marred by abuses in the criminal justice system. Liu appealed his 11-year sentence for inciting subversion on December 29, 2009, and is awaiting a decision. For more information on Guo and Liu, please see their records of detention, searchable through the Congressional-Executive Commission on China's (CECC) Political Prisoner Database.

For more information on how Chinese officials use the criminal charge of subversion or inciting subversion to punish citizens who express opposition to the Communist Party, see pp. 46-47 of the CECC 2009 Annual Report.