Activist Faces Charges Over Web Posts

Filed under
Web

A Chinese political activist goes on trial next week on subversion charges after posting essays and lyrics to a punk song on the Internet, a human rights group said Thursday.

Zhang Lin was detained Jan. 29 in his hometown of Bengbu, in the eastern province of Anhui, after returning from Beijing, where he unsuccessfully tried to attend a memorial service for ousted Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang.

Zhang goes on trial next week for posting almost 200 essays on the Internet, including one that quotes lyrics from a punk song that authorities say incite subversion of state power, Human Rights in China said in a statement.

Zhang has gone on hunger strikes twice to protest his detention and physical abuse while in captivity, the group said.

China's communist government frequently files subversion charges against political activists. A conviction can carry a penalty of up to life in prison.

Zhao, who died Jan. 17 at age 85, was forced from power in 1989 after sympathizing with pro-democracy protesters who occupied Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Authorities detained dissidents trying attending his memorial service to prevent expressions of discontent.

HRIC said no mention was made in Zhang's indictment about his attempt to pay his respects to Zhao.

Instead, the document issued May 23 by prosecutors in Bengbu said Zhang "used the Internet ... to openly disseminate language that misrepresents and denigrates the national authorities and the socialist system, and which incites subversion of state power and the overthrow of the socialist system."

Zhang, who has been imprisoned several times for pro-democracy activities, posted 195 articles between August 2003 and January this year, the group said.

According to the indictment, his work "damaged national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, spread falsehoods, disturbed social order and damaged social stability," HRIC said.
One of his essays quotes lyrics from a song by the Chinese punk group Pangu: "The Yellow River should run dry, this society should collapse, this system should be destroyed, this race should become extinct, this country should perish."

Liu Qing, HRIC's president, said authorities should withdraw their case against Zhang.

"The use of the words of a punk rock song to charge Zhang Lin with subversion shows the lengths to which the Chinese authorities feel compelled to go in persecuting and suppressing those who exercise freedom of expression," Liu said in a statement.

"Zhang Lin has been subjected to constant persecution over the past 16 years, even though his chief aspiration has always been the welfare of China and the Chinese people."

Zhang was introduced to dissident writings while a student at Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University in the 1970s. During the 1989 movement, Zhang led student hunger strikes in Bengbu and was later sentenced to two years in prison on charges of "counterrevolutionary incitement."

He was sentenced to three years in a labor camp after cofounding an independent labor rights group, HRIC said.

Associated Press