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China jails activist over ‘Down with the Communist Party!’ toilet graffiti

Police in China. (MaxPixel/Released)
January 15, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Authorities in Shanghai have jailed an activist who called on people to write “Down with the [ruling Chinese] Communist Party” in a public toilet in the city, and wrote his own satirical graffiti about indefinite rule by President Xi Jinping.

Ji Xiaolong was sentenced to three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment by the Shanghai’s Pudong District People’s Court on Monday, after it found him guilty of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” on the same day.

Ji was detained last July after calling on rights activists and democracy campaigners to respond to Xi’s call for a “toilet revolution” by penning political slogans on the walls of toilets in universities and hospitals that could be seen by thousands.

At his trial on Monday, Ji freely admitted having scrawled “Down with the Communist Party!” and other “sensitive phrases” on the wall of a public toilet in the city, his sister told RFA.

“He admitted himself that he did those things,” Ji Tingyu said. “He did this to make a public point, not for personal gain, so there shouldn’t be a problem.”

Ji Tingyu said she had been mentally prepared for her brother to go to prison.

“I predicted this a long time ago, but it’s unjust,” she said. “Once, when the state security police called me in for an interview, I asked them and they told me it was anything from six months to three years.”

A witness who sat in the public gallery during the trial but who requested anonymity said Ji had spoken passionately for around 20 minutes in his own defense, long past his allotted six minutes, and ignored judges when they made several attempts to cut him off.

His statement of intent likely resulted in a tougher sentence, as judges had seemed to be leaning towards a lighter sentence owing to Ji’s willingness to admit to what he did, the witness said.

In their judgment, the judges cited his “bad motives” for his action, as Ji had failed to show remorse for his actions, the witness added.

‘Afraid to speak out’

Fellow Shanghai rights activist Xu Peiling said Ji’s jailing came as no surprise.

“That’s the way it is with most cases now,” Xu said. “Once they’ve been imprisoned, [others] are afraid to speak out for fear of going to jail themselves.”

“But I think that we, as human beings, should say what we need to say, and speak the truth, even if that means going to jail.”

Ji’s defense attorney Dai Peiqing declined to comment when contacted by RFA on Monday, saying it was “inconvenient,” a phrase often used to indicate some form of restriction by the authorities.

Ji posted his initial comments on social media on July 20, calling on people to write “Down with the Communist Party,” his friend Chen Jianfang told RFA at the time.

According to Chen, some of Ji’s graffiti also referred to recent constitutional changes nodded through in March 2018 by China’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress, enabling the president to begin an indefinite second term in office.

“I don’t have money to cure my bowel movements, Fatty Xi [Jinping] is chucking money around, changing the constitution to make himself king.” Ji’s graffiti read, according to Chen. “When will this suffering end? Down with the Communist Party!”

Ji’s action came after authorities in the eastern province of Jiangxi set up a steering group to implement Xi’s “toilet revolution” in the province, building and renovating more than a million public facilities over the next three years.

The steering group would work to implement Xi’s “toilet revolution agenda” in the spirit of the 19th Party Congress, official media reported earlier this month.

Earlier this month, a court in Beijing sentenced citizen journalist Ding Lingjie and two fellow rights activists to 20 months each for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” after they made a video deemed to be mocking President Xi.

The case against the three hinged on a video clip shot by Li that the authorities said had “insulted a national leader.”