Prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang has been released after receiving a suspended sentence on Tuesday. Zhiqiang was indicted [JURIST report] in May on charges of fanning ethnic hatred and provoking trouble for comments that he posted online. He stood trial on December 14 after more than 19 months in detention. He was sentenced [AP report] to three years in prison, but all three years have been suspended. The verdict will not take effect for an additional 10 days, during which time he will be under residential surveillance. The guilty verdict disqualifies Pu from practicing law and forces him to follow certain restrictions for a three-year period or risk imprisonment.
Chinese state media recentlycriticized [JURIST report] detained human rights lawyers for undermining the rule of law. Pu was detained last year on a charge of “causing a disturbance” after he attended a weekend meeting that urged an investigation into the 1989 crackdown of pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and was subsequently denied [JURIST reports] bail. The Tiananmen protests began in April 1989 with mainly students and laborers protesting the Communist Party of China. The Chinese government declared martial law in May and initiated the violent dispersal of protesters by the People’s Liberation Army on June 4. The Chinese government has never publicized official figures, but the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy [advocacy website] reported last year that unnamed sources had estimated 600 people were killed [ICHR report, in Chinese]. In 2012 Chinese authorities detained hundreds of activists [JURIST report] in Beijing marking the twenty-third anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. In 2011 the US State Department urged the Chinese government to release protesters arrested for peaceful protests in the square in 1989. Human rights and democracy advocates in 2009 called on the Chinese government [JURIST report] to investigate the 1989 uprising, provide an accurate count of those killed in the government’s response to the uprising, and to accept reform outlines set forth in the Charter 08 proposal. In August 2008 Chinese authorities released [JURIST report] activist Hu Shigen [profile], sentenced to 20 years in prison for carrying out counterrevolutionary propaganda, including organizing events commemorating the uprising.