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Activist Tried for “Inciting Subversion” with Essays Disseminated Online

April 15, 2016

Labor activist Liu Shaoming (刘少明) was tried today at a court in Guangzhou for “inciting subversion of state power,” in a case that is almost entirely based on Liu’s writings published online. The trial ended without a verdict.

Liu, a former worker who supported the 1989 Democracy Movement and has devoted the years since to labor rights defense work, was detained in late May 2015, four days after he published his essay, “My Experience Supporting and Joining the 1989 Democracy Movement” (我到北京声援并参与“六四”民主运动经历). The essay recounts what he did and saw on Tiananmen Square from May 26 to the early morning of June 4, 1989.

According to Wu Kuiming (吴魁明), one of Liu’s defense lawyers, the prosecution cited as evidence for its case six essays by Liu, including two on June Fourth, as well as a dozen or so of his posts on WeChat (Weixin). “The defendant disregarded the nation’s law, and used rumors and libel to incite subversion of state power and to topple the socialist system,” the indictment says.

Wu also said that the prosecution sought heavy punishment for Liu, claiming that since Liu had been found guilty of “counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement” in 1989, he is thus a “repeat offender” and should be punished harshly. Wu contends that there is no legal basis for linking this prosecution to the conviction of a political crime 27 years ago.

According to a transcript of his final statement at trial, Liu said that he wrote his essays on June Fourth because he wanted his fellow countrymen to not forget the history and to continue to reflect on that painful time—in order to prevent a repeat of that tragedy.

Liu was born in 1958, in Xinyu, Jiangxi Province. At the start of the 1989 Democracy Movement, he was a worker at the Xinyu Steel Plant. He went to Beijing in May 1989 to support the students’ hunger strike in Tiananmen Square and to join the Workers’ Autonomous Federation. He was arrested in November that year and later sentenced to one year in prison for “counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement.” In recent years, he participated in dozens of workers’ rights defense activities and those in support of rights defenders detained for commemorating the victims of June Fourth. He was also detained dozens of times for his activism. On May 25, 2015, an article he wrote about his participation in the 1989 Democracy Movement was published on an overseas website. Four days later, on May 29, Liu was taken away by Guangzhou police, and then criminally detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.” He was officially arrested on July 14 and charged with “inciting subversion of state power.”