The United States and Germany urged China to free an outspoken government critic known as “Super Vulgar Butcher” on Wednesday after he was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Wu Gan, who refused to plead guilty to charges of “subverting state power,” was on Tuesday handed one of the harshest punishments meted out to a group of lawyers and activists swept up in a major crackdown two years ago.
“The embassies of Germany and the United States are deeply disappointed that Chinese human rights defender and blogger Wu Gan … (has) been convicted on vague charges,” a joint statement from the embassies said.
“We call on the Chinese authorities to release Wu immediately.”
Mr. Wu was taken into custody in May 2015 just weeks before authorities unleashed a ruthless campaign later dubbed the “709” crackdown, rounding up over 200 people involved in activities considered sensitive by the ruling Communist Party.
The outspoken social media figure became the subject of the state’s ire for using his larger-than-life online persona to draw public attention to human rights cases.
He called himself “butcher” because he saw himself as taking the fight to authorities, promising to “slaughter the pigs.” He added “super vulgar” after complaints about his use of crude language to make his case.
His lawyer told AFP the harsh sentence was intended as an unmistakable signal to anyone who would dare to challenge the state’s authority.
A very different ruling was made with respect to former human rights lawyer Xie Yang, who was exempted from jail after pleading guilty to “inciting subversion of state power.”
“Confession demonstrates the correctness of the regime’s charges, reinforces its ideology, avoids the necessity for appeal,” said New York University law professor Jerome Cohen, adding that the insistence on confession has long been characteristic of the Chinese justice system.
But the U.S. and Germany also highlighted “allegations of serious mistreatment of Wu Gan and Xie Yang while in detention,” calling on the Chinese authorities “to adhere to procedures established by law.”
During his sentencing, Mr. Xie denied being tortured, contradicting previous statements.
The two countries also called for the release of lawyer Wang Quanzhang — who was detained during the same police sweep two years ago and is yet to stand trial.