A Chinese publisher who spoke out in support of a dissident academic has been jailed for three years in Beijing after she pleaded guilty to illegal business operations.
Geng Xiaonan, 46, and her husband Qin Zhen, were arrested in September on suspicion of publishing thousands of illegal titles. According to reports, Geng told the court she was guilty of the charges against her, that she was the primary decision maker, and asked it to show leniency to her husband and staff who were just following instructions. She also asked for leniency for herself, because she was sole carer to her ailing father.
Qin was given a suspended sentence of two-and-a-half years.
The court proceedings were streamed live and reportedly viewed more than 80,000 times before the recording was taken offline, according to local media. The South China Morning Post said several dissidents and supporters had been prevented from attending the hearing.
Geng had spoken in support of Xu Zhangrun, a Beijing law professor who has been a vocal critic of Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist party, when he was detained in July last year for six days.
Reuters reported at the time that police had told his wife that he was being detained for allegedly soliciting prostitution during a trip to Chengdu, but at least two friends dismissed that allegation as character assassination.
In October, Xu said Geng had been arrested for a crime she hadn’t committed. “The authorities are prosecuting her using illegal business operations as an excuse,” he said.
Chinese Human Rights Defenders said Geng had also tried to raise awareness about the disappearance of citizen journalist, Chen Qiushi, and said it was another example of the Chinese government criminalising dissent. Her jailing is the latest in a string of crackdowns on prominent people who have criticised the party, including academic Xu Zhiyong, and businessman Ren Zhiqiang.