No. 2 Intermediate People's Court of Tianjin
Case Summary by the
Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China
Translator's Summary: This is a translation of the "Zhou Shifeng Subversion of State Power Case" (周世锋颠覆国家政权案) as it appears in Volume 119 of the "Reference to Criminal Trial," [刑事审判参考] (2019), published by the Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China. In its commentary on this case the Supreme People's Court stated: "The public trial of the case in accordance with the law simultaneously issued a solemn declaration to the anti-China forces in the West: China's constitutional and legal bottom line must not be challenged, and the fundamental interests of the Chinese people must not be trampled on. Faced with the "color revolution" and "wall pushing movement" under the cloak of so-called "democracy" and "human rights," the Chinese people are not paralyzed and will defend their system and regime with the strongest determination and the most powerful force. Any attempt to undermine China's harmony and stability, any scheme to subvert China's State regime or prevent China's peaceful rise is doomed to find no welcome in people's hearts, will be severely punished by the law, and will end in shameful failure!"
Defendant Zhou Shifeng, male, Han ethnicity, born [INTENTIONALLY DELETED], 1964. Arrested on January 8, 2016.
The People’s Procuratorate of Tianjin, Division No. 2, charged defendant Zhou Shifeng with the crime of subversion of state power and filed a public prosecution with the No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court of Tianjin.
Defendant Zhou Shifeng raised no objections in court to the facts and offenses charged in the indictment.
The No. 2 Intermediate People's Court of Tianjin ascertained through public hearings: defendant Zhou Shifeng became dissatisfied with the country's political and judicial systems while practicing as a lawyer, and gradually developed the idea of opposing, confronting and subverting the State regime. Since 2011, Zhou Shifeng repeatedly made statements online and offline, attacking the socialist system and inciting opposition to, and confrontation with, the State regime. Using the Fengrui Law Firm as a platform, he enlisted and instructed some lawyers and law firm executives who had the idea to subvert state power to act as counsel in cases, sensationalize hot-button cases, smear the judiciary, attack the system established by the Constitution, and incite hatred of the State regime. He collaborated with certain underground church members, illegal petitioners, and a small number of lawyers and other individuals to jointly plan to subvert the State regime, put forward strategies, methods, and processes to subvert the State regime, and carry out a series of criminal activities to subvert state power and the socialist system, jeopardizing national security and social stability.
The No. 2 Intermediate People's Court of Tianjin found that defendant Zhou Shifeng did, with the goal of subverting state power and overthrowing the socialist system, use the Fengrui Law Firm as a platform to participate and direct others in sensationalizing hot-button incidents, smearing the judiciary, attacking the system established by the Constitution, and inciting hatred of the State regime. He collaborated with others to put forward strategies, methods, and processes to subvert the State regime. He gave interviews to foreign media outlets where he attacked the socialist system, and his actions jeopardized national security and social stability. This constituted the crime of subversion of state power, and should be punished in accordance with the law.
On August 4, 2016, the No. 2 Intermediate People's Court of Tianjin publicly pronounced the judgment in this case and sentenced defendant Zhou Shifeng to a fixed term of seven years imprisonment and five years of deprivation of political rights for the crime of subversion of state power.
Defendant Zhou Shifeng pleaded guilty in court and accepted the sentence without appealing. The individuals involved in the case - Hu Shigen, Zhai Yanmin, Gou Hongguo, Li Heping, Wu Gan and others - were also sentenced to corresponding punishments for the crime of subverting state power.
B. DECISION RATIONALE
Article 105 of the Criminal Law stipulates that those who organize, plot or carry out the scheme of subverting the State power or overthrowing the socialist system, the ringleaders and the others who commit major crimes shall be sentenced to life imprisonment or fixed-term imprisonment of not less than 10 years; the ones who take an active part in it shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than three years but not more than 10 years; and the other participants shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than three years, criminal detention, public surveillance or deprivation of political rights. According to the provisions of this paragraph, the constitution of the crime of subverting state power does not require the occurrence of actual harmful results of subverting state power and overthrowing the socialist system. The crime is constituted as long as the perpetrator has organized, plotted, and carried out acts to subvert state power and overthrow the socialist system. The object of this crime is the stability of the State regime, and what has been infringed upon is the State power of the people's democratic dictatorship and the socialist system. The objective aspect can be manifested as any action whereby there is the organization, plotting, and carrying out a "peaceful transformation" through a so-called "color revolution," employing non-violent means to change the nature of the people's democratic dictatorship regime and the socialist system.
In this case, defendant Zhou Shifeng subjectively had the purpose of subverting state power and overthrowing the socialist system. In terms of objective behavior, Zhou Shifeng actively participated in gatherings organized by others, and specifically discussed becoming involved in a set of established issues and specifically discussed lawyers intervening in "labor movements" in order to have a direct impact on the State regime, as well as the necessity and feasibility of sensationalizing hot-button issues in order to divide and disrupt the State's political institutions. He also discussed specific operational methods and means, and jointly plotted using the aforementioned channels to promote carrying out a "color revolution" in China, and realize the goal of subverting state power and overthrowing the socialist system.
These gatherings exhibited relatively strong organization, and the main participants in the gatherings also exhibited a consistency in themes and opinions. Therefore, the gatherings were actually a specific plotting activity to subvert the state power.
Zhou Shifeng used the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm as a platform to act as counsel in cases, and enlisted and instructed certain law firm executives who had the idea of subverting state power by acting as counsel in cases, sensationalizing hot-button cases, fabricating and disseminating false facts, smearing the image of local Party committees and judicial agencies, and aiming the point of a spear at the Party’s leadership and judicial institutions and the State system, inciting people who do not know the truth to become dissatisfied with the State institutions. Zhou Shifeng also maliciously attacked China's State institutions in interviews with foreign media, inciting others to hate the State regime.
The essence of Zhou Shifeng's behavior was a specific practice of gathering together to plot schemes to subvert state power by using sensationalizing hot-button incidents to challenge judicial institutions and attack the State regime. It was malicious in nature and the circumstances were severe, and should be regarded as a criminal act subverting state power.
"Color revolutions" refers to a series of peaceful and non-violent regime change movements at the end of the 20th century that took place in countries in Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Eastern European Commonwealth of Independent States. "Color revolutions" are illegal subversive activities under the banner of "legality." Their essence is to change or usurp the current lawful regime, and their goal is to overthrow the State regime.
In recent years, foreign anti-China forces have always regarded the Westernization and division of China as their strategic goals, and have attempted to use "color revolutions" and other means to carry out activities of regime subversion directed at China. It was in this context that defendant Zhou Shifeng and others who, owing to their dissatisfaction with the country’s current political and judicial systems, were influenced by ideas such as Western democratic constitutionalism, "color revolutions," and "peaceful transformation" and gradually developed the criminal intent to subvert the State regime, and formed a criminal gang led by Zhou Shifeng, Hu Shigen, and others to carry out a Chinese version of a "color revolution." The case of Zhou Shifeng and others subverting state power is a model case of China blocking a "color revolution" in a new era and a new situation.
The trial of this case by the people's court in accordance with the law is of great significance to safeguarding the country's political security, system security, and regime security, and also highlights major rule of law warnings and educational significance:
The public trial of the case in accordance with the law has drawn three bottom lines for the lawyers: First, no one is allowed to use their status as a lawyer or use a law firm as a platform to sensationalize cases, attack the socialist system, or engage in activities that endanger national security. Second, no one is allowed to use their status as a lawyer to plan, instigate, or organize relevant interest groups to interfere with or disrupt the normal social order. Third, no one is allowed to use their status as a lawyer to teach or instruct parties to interfere with normal judicial activities.
The public trial of the case in accordance with the law exposed to the sunlight of rule of law and justice a conspiracy of various lawless lawyers, illegal religious organizations, Internet promoters, professional petitioners, and overseas anti-China forces for the so-called "integration of domestic anti-system forces, promotion of intra-party division, and international intervention". It was a public trial in accordance with the law that subjected to the just punishment of the law criminal acts of illegally gathering in public venues, sensationalizing hot-button cases, attacking the State's constitutional legal system, inciting the creation of conflicts between officials and the people, and attempting to subvert state power and overthrow the socialist system. It has also sounded the alarm for every citizen, so that the public has a clear and sensible understanding of the "wall-pushing ideology," "color revolutions" and "peaceful transformation," and thereby consciously draws a clear line and consciously resists the temptation of anti-China forces, and does not "push against the wall," does not act as a pawn of the anti-China forces in the West, and guards the political bottom line of every citizen.
The public trial of the case in accordance with the law simultaneously issued a solemn declaration to the anti-China forces in the West: China's constitutional and legal bottom line must not be challenged, and the fundamental interests of the Chinese people must not be trampled on. Faced with the "color revolution" and "wall pushing movement" under the cloak of so-called "democracy" and "human rights," the Chinese people are not paralyzed and will defend their system and regime with the strongest determination and the most powerful force. Any attempt to undermine China's harmony and stability, any scheme to subvert China's State regime or prevent China's peaceful rise is doomed to find no welcome in people's hearts, will be severely punished by the law, and will end in shameful failure!
The Higher People's Court of Tianjin Jiao Zhimin
The No. 2 Intermediate People's Court of Tianjin Li Zhanqiang
Edited by: The Supreme People's Court, Second Criminal Division Wang Xiaodong)