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Democracy Activist Gets Ten Years for “Subversion of State Power”

October 16, 2009

On October 16, 2009, Guo Quan (郭泉), former Nanjing Normal University associate professor and former member of China Democratic League (one of the eight state-approved “democratic” parties), was sentenced to ten years in prison and three years of deprivation of political rights for “subversion of state power” by the Suqian Intermediate People’s Court in Jiangsu Province.

Between 2007 and 2008, Guo Quan published a large number of articles, including open letters on the Internet addressed to President Hu Jintao and Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. The letters covered social problems in China such as laid-off workers, demobilized military cadres, and peasants who lost their land. Guo advocated a multi-party, competitively-elected democratic system and nationalization of the military. He also founded the New Democracy Party of China. In late 2007, he was fired by the university from his position as associate professor; he was summoned by the police; his house was raided and he was expelled from China Democratic League.

In November 2008, Guo Quan was detained by the Nanjing Public Security Bureau in the Gulou District on suspicion of “subversion of state power.” A case was filed on June 20, 2009 in Suqian Intermediate People’s Court, and the trial took place on August 7, 2009. In issuing a decision more than four months after it accepted the case, the court greatly exceeded the one-and-a-half month legal time limit for a court to conclude a case (Article 168, Criminal Procedure Law).

Guo Quan’s lawyer said, “This sentence is indefensible from a legal perspective, because using peaceful and rational means to petition cannot be considered ‘subversion of state power.’ Guo Quan’s actions were in complete compliance with the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. ‘Subversion of state power’ can only be achieved by armed insurrection.”

“By criminalizing lawful and peaceful activities protected under Chinese law and international human rights law, the Chinese authorities are contributing to the radicalization of rights defense work,” said Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China.

Guo Quan graduated from Jinling Vocational University in Nanjing in 1990 with a degree in English. Soon after graduating, Guo served as secretary of the Nanjing Municipal Economic Reform Committee, and was a judge in the criminal division of Nanjing Intermediate People’s Court.  Guo Quan received a Master of Laws (LL.M) degree in 1996 and a doctorate degree in Chinese Philosophy in 1999, both from Nanjing University. In 2001, Guo completed post-doctoral research in literature at Nanjing Normal University and remained at that school to teach.