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‘We never expected that after all that, there would be such a cruel outcome’

The daughter of an outspoken Chinese poet who called on ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping to step down has hit out at an “unjust and cruel” prison sentence handed down to her father.

Zhang Yiran, currently living in the United States, made a short video outlining the details of her father’s case.

“Hi everyone. I’m Zhang Yiran, Lu Yang’s daughter,” she said. “My father was sentenced to the cruel punishment of six years’ imprisonment for posting a video to social media calling on Chinese leader Xi Jinping to step down.”

“He was taken away by police on May 1, 2020, and tried in secret on Sept. 15, 2020 by the Liaocheng Intermediate People’s Court on charges of ‘incitement to subvert state power’,” Zhang said, adding that he was then held for a further two years and three months at the Liaocheng Detention Center, while his family waited and waited for news of the outcome.

In China’s criminal justice system, sentencing is usually announced within six weeks of a trial’s conclusion.

“Recently, on July 26, 2022, he was sentenced in secret to six years’ imprisonment and three years’ deprivation of political rights,” Zhang said. “The sentence was communicated verbally to my mother by the court, which refused to give her the court judgment, saying they contained state secrets.”

They also told her at that time that Lu had said he wanted to appeal, she said.

“This is an unfair, unjust and cruel sentence, and I, my mother, and my grandmother, who is bed-bound with illness and in her nineties, waited and suffered for two years to hear it,” Zhang said. “We never expected that after all that, there would be such a cruel outcome.”

She said her mother had hired a lawyer from the Haiyang Law Firm in Shandong to prepare the case for appeal at the Shandong Provincial High Court.

“I urge all people of conscience to support my father, and call on the Chinese authorities to undo this injustice and give him back his rights,” Zhang said.

Zhang Guiqi, 49, who is widely known by his penname Lu Yang, pleaded not guilty to the charges, which came after he posted a video of himself calling on Xi to step down, and calling for “an end to the CCP dictatorship.”

Lu Yang was among a group of rights activists who went to the Shandong Jianzhu University in January 2017 to support a former professor there, Deng Xiangchao, who was targeted by Maoist protesters after he retweeted a post satirizing late supreme leader Mao Zedong.

The Shandong authorities terminated Deng’s teaching contract after the incident, while Maoist flash mobs attacked Deng’s supporters at the scene, including Yang.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.