Rights Activist Sentenced to Two Years Imprisonment

By Wang Manna, Central News Agency
February 23, 2008 12:00 am Last Updated: February 23, 2008 12:00 am

After being detained in Xupu County, Hunan Province for nine months by police, Zhang Zilin, leader of China's Pan Blue Alliance, was sentenced to two years for extortion. The local court announced the sentence on Feb. 22. Zhang said he will appeal.

According to Zhang's defense lawyer, attorney Mo Shaoping, the Xupu People's Court planned to announce the sentence in the morning of Feb. 20; however, because testimonies provided by both sides differed greatly, the court decided to postpone the decision to Feb. 22.

Mo said there were two major disagreements between the accused and the defense. One was that the Xupu Public Safety Bureau once imposed a fine of 1,500 yuan on Zhang (approximately US$206) for extortion and issued a receipt for it. According to laws in China, the court is not supposed to sentence Zhang again with the same charge.

The second disagreement concerned the 9,000 yuan (approximately US$1,241) the woman gave Zhang. Initially, she said it was a donation to help him, but she later changed her claim and said that it was a loan and that there was a receipt showing Zhang had returned 6,000 yuan (approximately US$827). Still, the court charged Zhang with extortion.

According to Mo, Zhang told him that the police once offered to drop the case under the condition that Zhang quit the Pan Blue Alliance. Zhang refused and the police turned the case to the court.

The Pan-Blue Alliance is infuriated with the sentence. In their opinion, this is Beijing's attempt to warn members of the Alliance to keep a low profile during the Olympics. The Alliance is planning to have protests nation-wide to support Zhang.

Sun Buer, former leader of the Alliance has been missing from home since May 23, 2007, and his whereabouts remain unknown. The day Sun went missing, the police searched his house, confiscated his computer, and hacked the Alliance's web site. Zhang was elected the interim leader of the Alliance after Sun's disappearance. At that time, Zhang was 23 and a student at the Hunan Art Occupational Collage. A few days after Zhang was elected as leader, the Xupu police arrested him for extortion.

The China Pan Blue Alliance was founded in August 2004. It proposes to follow Sun Yat-Sen's theory of “Three Principles of the People” and propagate the democratic system practiced in Taiwan. The Alliance has over 3,000 members in China.