Lawyer gets 7 years for subversion

Lawyer gets 7 years for subversion
Zhou Shifeng was sentenced to seven years in prison on Thursday after being found guilty of subverting State power. Wang Ye / Xinhua

Head of Beijing law firm pleads guilty at trial; won't appeal

Attorneys should abide more strictly by the law and not use cases to harm the country, judicial specialists said after lawyer Zhou Shifeng was sentenced to seven years in prison on Thursday after being found guilty of subverting State power.

Zhou, 52, a native of Anyang, Henan province, had been director of Beijing Fengrui Law Firm. He was sentenced after being found guilty of using his firm to spread subversive thoughts and create social conflicts to damage national security, the Tianjin No 2 Intermediate People's Court said in its verdict on Thursday.

Zhou had pleaded guilty to the charges.

"I accepted the fair judgment and expressed much regret for what I had done. I will not appeal to a higher court," he said.

The verdict said that Zhou had long been influenced by anti-China forces and that he had plotted ideas to overturn the country's political system, especially after 2011, when he met Hu Shigen, the leader of an illegal organization.

Zhou used his law firm as a platform to manipulate public opinion by encouraging like-minded attorneys and residents to make noise over sensitive issues, the verdict said.

In December 2014, for example, Zhou asked attorneys and petitioners to go to Dali, Yunnan province, to influence a civil case that had been handled by his firm.

He asked activist Zhai Yanmin to post anti-China comments online and organized petitioners to shout slogans and drive a car decorated with anti-government banners to disturb judicial bodies from Jan 1 to 12 last year, it said.

Zhou's attorneys said his actions were influenced by Hu, and said Zhou had also performed charitable acts in the past.

The court said: "The defendant had very negative effects on the judicial system and the country."

Hu and Zhai faced the same charges as Zhou. Earlier this week, Hu was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison and Zhai was given three years with a four-year reprieve.

Mao Hongtao, a Beijing lawyer who listened to the trial from the public gallery, said: "Zhou brought disrepute to lawyers. His behavior has not only damaged his clients but also himself."

Lyu Hongbing, a Shanghai lawyer who witnessed the trial, said lawyers and law firms needed regulation, as they play such a big role in the country's legal system.

As for the different penalties for the same charge - a topic heatedly discussed online - Gu Yongzhong, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law, said it is reasonable.

Under the Criminal Law, leaders of subversive activities will be sentenced more heavily than participants, he said.

Ruan Qilin, another law professor at the university, said that Hu's sentence was heavier because he had been criminally punished in 1994.

By Cao Yin In Tianjin (China Daily)

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