A Chinese court in the southwestern city of Chongqing on Friday quashed the sentence against a Chinese blogger and former forestry employee for lack of evidence. With the annulment of the sentence, the Chongqing Third Intermediate Court ruled [WP report] that the one-year detention of Fang Hong in a police-run labor camp was illegal. He was sentenced to a year in the labor camp in 2011 for posting a brief poem on his microblog criticizing and mocking a former Communist Party chief in the city, Bo Xilai [China Vitae profile], and his former police chief, Wang Lijun [China Vitae profile], who had used force against critics and accused gang leaders. Both officials have been removed from their position in the wake of the Bo Xilai scandal [BBC backgrounder] involving the death of the British businessman Neil Heywood last November. Police convicted and sentenced Fang in April 2011 for fabricating facts and disturbing public order. Friday's ruling came after Fang, who was released from the detention facility on April 24, filed a suit against his conviction in the city's court. He also announced that he will seek compensation of $6,000 and an apology from the city and other parties. A verdict in the case is expected to be announced in the near future.
China has been known for its strict policy against dissidents. Last week, dissident artist Ai Weiwei [BBC profile] was banned from attending the first hearing in the case brought by his company, Fake Cultural Development Ltd., against Beijing tax authorities, despite the fact that the Chinese court had agreed to hear [JURIST reports] the case in early May. Filming and key witnesses were excluded from the courthouse while other rights activists such as Hu Jia [advocacy blog; JURIST news archive] were also barred from attending the hearing. In May the blind Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] asked the US to increase its effort in promoting the rule of law in China a week following his arrival in New York after he left the US embassy [JURIST reports] in early May.