Wu Gan, the Chinese human rights activist known for organizing protests against government officials and agencies accused of abusing their power, was charged with subversion and sentenced to eight years in prison by a Tianjin court near Beijing last week after struggling against the state’s authority for the past five years. An official summary of the verdict stated that Wu “used ‘rights defense’ and ‘performance art’ as a ploy [to] seriously harm national security and social stability.”
According to Chris Buckley of the New York Times, Wu frequented online forums and used social-media platforms to mock allegedly corrupt public officials. He operated under the online name Super Vulgar Butcher. The forty-five-year-old was one of more than 250 people who were persecuted during a campaign to silence outspoken rights activists that began in 2015. Many of those arrested had ties to Fengrui Law Firm in Beijing, where Wu was an assistant researcher.
Wu was first detained in May 2015, after he participated in a protest in front of a court in southeast China. For Wu’s trial, which was held more than four months ago, authorities warned protesters against attending. Supporters of Wu who did show up to the proceedings were apparently detained by plainclothes policemen.
“I will never regret what I have done and the choices I have made up to now,” Wu said in the pretrial statement. “I will be convicted not because I’m really guilty, but because I refused to accept a state-designated lawyer, would not plead guilty and go along with media propaganda, and insisted on exposing their savagery in torturing and abusing me, as well as the prosecutors’ cover-ups and dereliction of office.” While there are critics of the tactics Wu used to expose corruption via the internet, he was adamant about not using “illegal means or violence” to accomplish his goals. It’s about “taking every action that citizens are permitted within the law,” Wu wrote in his guidelines for challenging officials.