Henan Peasants In and Out of Court for Distributing Leaflets
Eight peasants in Henan Province have been arrested, publicly humiliated, and given sentences for distributing leaflets accusing the local village Party Secretary of corruption, according to a Beijing News report on Aug. 24.
They were sentenced to one to two years for libeling Wu Xiaobao, the Penyao Village Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Secretary. Their first court appeal resulted in even heavier sentences, and they are now waiting for their second appeal to be heard.
On Aug. 19, Zheng Keyuan from Penyao Village of Shanwangzhuang Town in Henan Province said, “If not for my illness, I would have to stay in detention center now.” Zheng has been put on bail pending trial, while the other seven have been taken into custody.
Li Huiqing from Beijing represents the peasants. He believes the scope of their conduct is limited to the village, and that the case is not serious enough to constitute libel. Even though it is alleged to be libel, according to criminal law libel is a private prosecution case, and hence should not be publicly prosecuted unless it “seriously endangers the social order and national interest,” he said.
Li believes that Wu Xiaobao should be directed to sue in court rather than having the public security bureau detain the accused individuals like criminals.
It was in late February 2008 that Wu received a report that leaflets against him had appeared in the village. They said that from 2002 to 2004 the village imposed charges on passing vehicles, and received 3 to 5 million yuan (US$438,902 to US$731,780), whereas the figure released by Wu was only 680,000 Yuan (US$99,531). It demanded that Wu return the “stolen money.”
On March 24 leaflets emerged again listing 23 charges, including accusing Wu of taking kickbacks, traveling on public funds, extorting and framing people, and directing local ruffians to beat people up.
He reported it to the Shanwangzhuang Town Police Station the next day, and the Public Security Bureau decided then to investigate the matter as a criminal case. Their investigation found that both leaflet distributions were planned and implemented by Zheng Keyuan and seven others.
By late April the eight involved were detained. In mid May the Qinyang Municipal Procuratorate formally arrested all eight and charged them with “false accusations.” They were sentenced to a maximum of two years in jail.
The defendants appealed, however, and a retrial was called. The judge ruled against them again, giving even heavier sentences. They appealed yet again, and yet another retrial was ordered. Now, they wait.
Read the original Chinese article