Dissident charged with subverting China's state power by writing poem

 

ONE OF China’s best-known dissenting voices has been charged with subverting state power after he wrote a poem whose content was deemed dangerous.

Internet writer Zhu Yufu (60) comes from the eastern city of Hangzhou and was the founder and editor of the China Democracy Party’s magazine. He was arrested last April but only charged now. No date has been set for his trial.

The poem, which was published online, is called It’s Timeand in it Zhu urges people to take “a stroll” on what seems to be Tiananmen Square, the plaza in central Beijing that was the site of a brutal crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in 1989. It reads:

“It’s time, Chinese people!

The square belongs to

everyone

The feet are yours

It’s time to use your feet and

take to the square to make a

choice.”

The poem was published almost a year ago, when overseas websites were calling on people to take “strolls” at vantage points in Chinese cities around the country.

The government saw this as an effort to inspire uprisings like the Arab Spring revolutions of north Africa and the Middle East.

In the end more journalists than dissidents showed up, but the resulting crackdown is still ongoing.

“The main reason for the indictment was a poem [Zhu] had written calling for people to gather,” said his lawyer, Li Dunyong. “He had written the poem around the same time there was chaos [in the Middle East]. He believes in the freedom of expression.”

The charge of “inciting subversion of state power” is often used against those who criticise the rule of the Communist Party, and has been used more frequently of late as the government seeks to put a lid on dissent sparked by the wave of revolutions against authoritarian regimes elsewhere. There is also heightened awareness of dissent as the Communist Party gets ready to start a process of leadership change later this year.

Zhu has been in and out of jail for years. He served seven years for his leading role in the China Democratic Party. He was released in 2006 but arrested again in 2007 and given two years for pushing a police officer during his arrest.

Separately, artist and activist Ai Weiwei said he was picked up and interrogated for five hours on Sunday after he threw stones and made offensive gestures at a security camera outside his home. – (Additional reporting: Reuters)