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Petitioner Gets One Year and Six Months for “Obstructing Official Business”

October 23, 2009


Human Rights in China (HRIC) learned that on October 23, 2009, Duan Chunfang (段春芳), a Shanghai petitioner and Charter ’08 signer, was sentenced by a Shanghai court to one year and six months in prison for “obstructing official business.” Duan’s family members said that this is an unjust ruling and that they plan to appeal. Duan has been petitioning the authorities for redress for the 2007 death of her brother, Duan Huimin (段惠民), while he was serving a Reeducation-Through-Labor (RTL) sentence.
In 2000, Duan Chunfang and her brother began petitioning the authorities after her home was demolished by the government and he lost his job. On November 3, 2006, while petitioning in Beijing, they were beaten by around ten men – including one named Gao Weiguo – who had been sent by Shanghai authorities to Beijing to intercept petitioners. The brother and sister were brought back to Shanghai, and Duan Huimin was subsequently sentenced to 13 months of Reeducation-Through-Labor (RTL). He received no medical treatment in detention and his condition worsened. On December 31, 2006, the authorities decided to let Duan serve the remainder of his sentence outside of RTL facilities. While being escorted home by RTL officials, Duan asked to be taken to a hospital but was abandoned in the street instead. After his family retrieved him, he died two days later.

Following Duan Huimin’s death, Duan Chunfang continued to go to Beijing, to seek reparations for her demolished home and justice for her brother death. She also signed Charter ‘08. On June 23, 2009, Duan Chunfang and her husband were surrounded and beaten by a dozen or so policemen. Her arm was injured in several places. On July 3, she was detained and accused of assaulting policemen. She was later formally arrested on suspicion of “obstructing official business.”

Duan Chunfang's younger brother, Duan Ruofei (段若飞), told HRIC that during the trial, held in the Pujiang Township People’s Court in Minhang District in Shanghai, Duan Chunfang vigorously denied the charge that she had assaulted the police. Duan Ruofei quoted his sister as saying: “You are making me into a female Yang Jia! How can a woman like me beat up three policemen and three security guards?” Duan Ruofei said that his sister had been severely beaten in detention. Her face was badly battered, and there were bruises on her arms. Duan Ruofei said some three hundred supporters of Duan Chunfang were barred from the court and waited outside, while only three close relatives were allowed in.

Lin Qilei (蔺其磊), Duan’s defense lawyer, said that the court decision did not make clear the facts of the case, and that the prosecution’s case was based entirely on the testimony of the policemen. Mr. Lin said that the court denied his request to show the police surveillance video tape of the assault, on the ground that the testimony by the witnesses was sufficient evidence.

“This decision is the result of an unfair process. Duan’s case is also representative of hundreds of thousands of individuals petitioning their forced displacement from their homes. Instead of redress and appropriate compensation, they face prison terms, detention or crackdowns,” said Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China.  “The Chinese authorities should carefully review this case on appeal. What is on trial is the independence and fairness of the judicial system.”

As China prepares for the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, HRIC urges the international community to closely monitor the already clear pattern of forced evictions, cleansing of the city of petitioners, and other abuses.

For more information on Duan Chunfang, see:

Human Rights in China, “Three Shanghai Petitioners go to Trial, Others Abused in Detention,” November 7, 2006



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