Beijing People's Court sentences Zhang Baocheng, human rights activist, to three and a half years in prison for "picking a quarrel and provoking trouble"



Monday, November 16, 2020

Reminder of "Red Matters" on a street in Beijing.
(Photo: Flickr)

(Beijing, Hebei Province—Nov. 16, 2020) On November 10, Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court sentenced Zhang Baocheng, Beijing human rights activist and a member of the New Citizens' Movement, to three and a half years in prison for "picking a quarrel and provoking trouble." Mr. Zhang’s charge evolved from his social media usage outside of China and helping rights activist Huang Qi's mother, Pu Wenqing.

Zhang Baocheng posted more than 2000 tweets on the social media app Twitter, and provided help to Ms. Pu. During her petition for Huang Qi, Ms. Pu had stayed at Mr. Zhang's house in Beijing. One poignant video subsequently uploaded on the internet shows Ms. Pu crying for imprisoned son, experiencing abuse. She asked prison authorities, “Please release my son.” 

Authorities used this information as “evidence” of Mr. Zhang’s crime. 

Mr. Zhang’ indictment claimed that from 2018 to 2019, his posts contained false information that harmed national interest and defamed China's leader.... Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities extracted a video of Ms. Pu speaking from Mr. Zhang's phone. Based on this video, consistent with the one published by the rights protection network, authorities perceived Mr. Zhang as harmful to society, grounds to constitute the crime of "picking a quarrel and provoking trouble." 

Authorities also charged Mr. Zhang for retweeting a video involving the "Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement" (ETIM), which authorities consider extremely harmful. 

China has often suppressed Muslims in Xinjiang, claiming their actions are part of their strike against the ETIM. On November 5, U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo notified the Federal Register to revoke the designation of ETIM as a "terrorist organization." 

In court, Mr. Zhang defended himself, saying, "I never retweeted any violent terror video," and that "the information on my tweets are all true." He also stated that "freedom of speech entails posting on Twitter. I should not be convicted because of my words." 

Peng Jian, Mr. Zhang’s defense lawyer stated that as authorities block Twitter comments in China, and the Chinese internet does not permit access to Twitter; thus, Mr. Zhang’s “tweets” did not cause substantial harm, nor did they provoke severe chaos in public order. From the perspective of Chinese law and regulation, Attorney Peng stressed, authorities have no control of cyberspace outside of China. 

Another lawyer defending Mr. Zhang, concurred that the charges were without evidence; they did not prove he fabricated false information and uploaded the video of Pu Wenqing. In addition, both the critique of a country's leader, as well as government officials, fall within the scope of the right to freedom of speech. Neither of these actions constitute criminal behavior. 

The defense stated: No evidence shows that the video content involves violence and terror. The court, however, refused to adopt the defense’s opinion. 

Liu Juefan, Mr. Zhang's wife, who currently resides in the U.S., agreed that, "there was not any factual evidence to substantiate charges against my husband, Authorities created them out of nothing. This reminds me of the saying, ‘It is easy to find a stick to beat a dog (idiom).’ The authorities' goal appears to aim to cause pro-democracy activists to fall into isolation, and despair,” Ms. Liu added. 

"I disagree with the CCP and believe authorities used the seed of calamity my husband sowed by providing support to Huang Qi's mother to fabricate charges against him."

Mr. Zhang, arrested three times in the past, served eight years in prison. In 1978, the Chinese government sentenced him to re-education through labor for "spreading anti-party rhetoric, and undermining the spread of Maoism." In 2006, The Chinese government sentenced him again for another three years. On March 31, 2013 in Xidan Cultural Plaza, when Mr. Zhang gave a speech stressing that the government should require officials to disclose assets," authorities arrested and sentenced him to two years in prison. During this time, he experienced abuse. 

Early morning in 2019, on the eve of the Tiananmen Square protests' 30th anniversary, police officers searched Mr. Zhang's house. They detained him, fabricating the charge, "involvement with firearms" (China forbids the ownership of firearms). After the incident, Ms. Liu said: "the surroundings of my house are under year-round surveillance; you all are even crystal clear on how many cockroaches are in my house. Involvement with guns? Civilians cannot even buy rubber band slingshots. Please refabricate a charge you yourself will believe in." 

Currently, "for "picking a quarrel and provoking trouble," Zhang Baocheng remains imprisoned in the No.3 detention center of Beijing City. 



China Aid exposes abuses in order to stand in solidarity with the persecuted and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law. If you wish to partner with us in helping those persecuted by the Chinese government, please click the button below to make a charitable donation.



ChinaAid Media Team
Cell: +1 (432) 553-1080 | Office: +1 (432) 689-6985 | Other: +1 (888) 889-7757
For more information, click here