An outspoken Chinese entrepreneur and dissident was sentenced to prison and heavily fined on July 28. Two law experts said the harsh ruling signals a new wave of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) campaign of targeting private firms to acquire their assets.
A court in Hebei Province sentenced Sun Dawu, 67, to 18 years in prison, along with a fine of $480,000. The charges against him included gathering crowds to attack state agencies, obstructing public service, illegally occupying agricultural land, and illegally taking public deposits.
Sun is a rural tycoon and founder of Dawu Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Group. He is locally known for his independent political views, and has been called “the conscience of Chinese entrepreneurs.” Sun’s company has more than 9,000 employees, $312 million in fixed assets, and an annual output valued at more than $467 million according to China expert Wang Youqun.
Nineteen executives of his group, including his son and two brothers, were also sentenced to probation to 12 years in jail.
In their statement, Sun’s team of lawyers expressed disappointment and regret over the court disregarding much of their defense.
The team said the trial did not follow normal legal procedures. It was based on unjust residential surveillance, accelerated proceedings, and exhausting interrogations. Sun’s team vowed to appeal to higher courts until all legal means were exhausted.
Chinese human rights lawyer Xie Yanyi condemned the court rulings imposed on Sun, his executives, and his group with The Epoch Times on July 28. He cited the sentencing as “extremely unfair” when compared with most prison terms or fines.
“Eighteen-year imprisonment is among the most severe,” Xie said. “And financially, the punishment will be a fatal blow to the group.”
He also noted flaws in procedures and evidence regarding the case.
Xie particularly noted that the accusation “illegally occupying agricultural land” is indefensible. He explained that China previously allowed farmers to transfer land for mutually beneficial purposes. Sun transferred land when it was legal, yet was later found guilty after the law was changed.
Xie also cited the court rejecting the defense team’s request to throw out evidence obtained through torture and forced confession. He said, he suspects the court has lost independence in administering authority and has reduced itself to a political tool.
Shortly before the trial, senior Chinese jurist Zhao Yuanming told The Epoch Times on July 20 that the case was financially motivated. He said the Chinese regime most likely targeted Sun to seize his assets. Zhao said the Chinese government is short of funds due to an economic slowdown.
He cited the CCP’s oft-used strategy of targeting successful private firms. Zhao said the situation always plays out in the same way: arrest the founder, smear him with accusations, and confiscate his assets.
Zhao said the case showed the continued deterioration of China’s rule of law.