A court in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu has tried Guo Quan, a former professor from Nanjing Normal University, for “incitement to subvert state power” after he criticized the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s response to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan.
Guo, a former judge, stood trial on Sept. 9 by video call at the Xuzhou Intermediate People’s Court, pleading not guilty and defending himself vigorously in terms of free speech protections enshrined in the Chinese constitution, his lawyer told RFA.
In a trial that lasted more than five hours, Guo, now 53, addressed the court for nearly two hours, engaging in a systematic legal defense of the articles he published online that were submitted in evidence by the state prosecutor’s office, his attorney said.
“He told them he wasn’t afraid of going jail, and that he is ready for that … and is willing to pay the price given the [current political] reality,” Guo’s lawyer Chang Boyang told RFA after the trial. “He said he isn’t guilty, but understood that the court could decide to convict him anyway.”
Guo was detained by Nanjing police on Jan. 31, 2020 and held at the Nanjing No. 2 Detention Center on charges that were unknown at the time.
Guo had been writing online about the COVID-19 outbreak in China and had criticized the governmentâ€™s response, according to the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network.
His family were informed on Feb. 26, 2020 of his formal arrest for “incitement to subvert state power.”
Held incommunicado for much of his pretrial detention, Guo finally received a visit from defense attorney Si Weijiang in the Nanjing No. 2 Detention Center on Oct. 12, 2020, CHRD said.
Guo was described by Si at the time as being in good spirits and having a healthy appearance. He told Si then that he didn’t fear prison, the group said.
A former associate professor at Nanjing Normal University, Guo had previously served a 10-year jail term from 2009 on the same charge after he set up the China New People’s Party in 2007.
Calling for multi-party democracy
According to Chang, the prosecution case rested on less than 20 articles criticizing the CCP’s COVID-19 response, social injustice, and official corruption.
The articles sought to “divide the people from the ruling party” and negate the existing political system by advocating multi-party democracy, the indictment said.
“He spoke for around half of the length of the trial, talking about his views and ideas as expressed in those articles,” Chang told RFA. “He likened dictatorship to the sun, to the yang, which is toxic if it is too extreme, and said the back-and-forth nature of multi-party democracies was closer to traditional Chinese culture.”
Guo’s octagenarian mother Gu Xiao declined to comment when contacted by RFA on Sept. 9.
“Go ahead, report it, but please don’t disturb me: I’m in very poor health,” Gu said.
Chang said Guo had become far more moderate in his political views over the past decade, and had refused to live in exile, despite being encouraged to leave China by the local police.
He said Guo’s Christian faith had strengthened and was sustaining him through his most recent detention.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.