On October 28 the Shanghai Second Intermediate People’s Court sentenced lawyer Zheng Enchong to three years in prison on charges of “illegally providing state secrets to entities outside of China.” The news media have reported that the judgment mentioned Human Rights in China (HRIC). HRIC has now obtained a copy of the court judgment against Zheng Enchong (Link to Translated Court Judgement), which refers to HRIC 12 times and makes clear that the “state secrets” Zheng Enchong leaked were communications he sent to HRIC. Under the circumstances, HRIC feels compelled to issue the following statement:
First of all, China’s State Secrets Law includes a catch-all provision under which state secrets are determined by the State Secrets Bureau, sometimes after the fact. Under these circumstances, people might easily circulate information that they reasonably believe to be in the public domain, only to be accused of leaking state secrets when exposure of that information proves problematic to the authorities.
Secondly, this judgment highlights once again the Chinese government’s efforts to suppress the right to information and freedom of the press under the guise of protecting state secrets. In this particular case, both “secrets” referred to incidents that occurred in public, and of which countless ordinary citizens were already fully aware. As a lawyer who specialized in helping people who had suffered personal injury or loss of property as a result of forced removal in urban redevelopment projects, Zheng Enchong took upon himself the responsibility of raising awareness inside and outside of China of the serious problems connected with these redevelopment projects and other instances of social injustice. The authorities’ persecution of Zheng Enchong for his courageous and conscientious actions sends a chilling message to other defenders of social justice, as well as giving a green light to those officials and business interests who conspire with impunity against the welfare of displaced residents and other underprivileged people.