China hands down harsh sentence to rights activist

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A prominent activist who calls himself the “Ultra Vulgar Butcher” for mocking and pressuring Chinese officials was given an eight-year prison sentence on charges of subversion, the harshest punishment in a sweeping crackdown on rights campaigners.

The Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court on Tuesday handed down the sentence after finding activist Wu Gan guilty of subverting state power. Wu will appeal the sentence, his lawyer Ge Yongxi told The Associated Press.

Wu had become known among rights advocates and lawyers for his attention-grabbing campaigns. In one, he posed for online portraits brandishing knives that he said he would use to “slaughter the pigs” among local officials who had done wrong.

In court on Tuesday, Wu struck an irreverent note in his remarks following the sentence, saying he was “grateful to the party for granting me this lofty honor,” according to Ge, who was in court.

“I will remain true to our original aspiration, roll up my sleeves and make an extra effort,” Wu said, playing on well-known phrases Chinese President Xi Jinping often uses to exhort Communist Party officials to improve their work.

Wu was among the first activists and lawyers caught up in an intense crackdown by authorities that began in 2015. His secretive one-day trial was held in August after a detention of more than two years.

Activists like Wu focused on individual cases instead of challenging Communist Party policy at the national level, making them a greater headache for local officials than for Beijing. But their ability to organize people apparently made authorities nervous.

“With extraordinary courage and disdainful words, Wu Gan set the tone for this so-called ‘trial’ against him,” said his friend and fellow activist Wu Yuren. “It will inspire more and more people to stomp on this government that seems powerful yet doesn’t…

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