After a failed appeal, the 10-year prison sentence of the founder of the China New Democracy Party (CNDP) was upheld on Christmas Day. In October the Suqian Intermediate People’s Court in Jiangsu Province had convicted Guo Quan of “subverting state power and planning to overthrow the socialist system.”
His lawyer learned of the ruling three days later; his mother, the same afternoon. “Though I had mentally prepared for it, the moment I heard the decision I felt unable to bear it for a moment. I simply collapsed,” she said. “My son’s second hearing wasn’t an open court. It was equal to a secret sentencing. A judge just went to the detention center and pronounced judgment right there, just like that.”
Guo Quan’s lawyer, Cheng Hai, says the judgment should not be upheld. He says Guo made no remarks critical of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the Chinese government, or the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) leaders. “Nor was there any subversion of state power. All he did was put forth his own opinions regarding political reform without overthrowing the CCP’s rule. According to the law, as a Chinese citizen, he enjoys freedom of speech and association, and it is also legal for him to form the CNDP,” he said.
Guo published articles online touching on topics like democracy, “rights defenders,” and social injustice. On Nov. 14, 2007, he published an open letter to Chinese communist leaders Hu Jintao and Wu Bangguo, calling for a “democratic government based on multi-party elections that serves the interests of everyone in society.” He also founded the CNDP.
Guo’s first hearing took place on Aug. 7, and the decision was made on Oct. 16—Human Rights in China pointed out this far exceeded the stipulated one-and-a-half month legal time limit within which cases should be concluded. The court justified the delay on procedural grounds.
The charges stemmed from the CCP’s interpretation of Guo’s actions as subversive to its rule. His defense was not to dispute the evidence, but to argue that the published materials were not subversive, and that the constitution covers freedom of speech anyway. The prosecution asserted that the interests of the Party-State take priority.
Under China’s legal system this conflict is irreconcilable, according to Duihua, a U.S.-based NGO focused on China. As long as the CCP makes no distinction between its interests and integrity and those of the nation as a whole, such cases will persist, they wrote in a blog post.
Nevertheless, Guo Quan’s legal counsel appealed the first sentence. According to the procedures of Chinese criminal law, the second hearing should usually be held within one month of the first. Guo Quan’s second hearing was accepted by the Jiangsu high court within this deadline, on Nov. 2.
Second court hearings should be open because they are an examination of whether the first hearing and decisions made therein were done in accordance with the law, Cheng Hai explained to RFA. Only when the facts of the case are already very clear, and the opinions of the lawyers and people in question have been sought out, are closed courts held, he said. In this case, he said, the court should have been open because “the dispute is massive.”
The additional arguments and viewpoints that Cheng Hai mailed to the court between the first and second hearings were not considered either, he said.
After this second hearing, Guo’s family has decided to appeal to the Supreme People’s Court.