A prominent Chinese businessman who was arrested after praising defense lawyers during a crackdown by President Xi Jinping’s government against legal activists was sentenced Thursday to 18 years in prison on charges of organizing an attack against the authorities and other crimes.
Sun Dawu, chairman of the Dawu Agricultural Group, which raises pigs, was one of 20 defendants at the trial in Gaobeidian, southwest of Beijing. They were arrested when Dawu employees tried in August 2020 to stop a state company from demolishing a group property.
Additionally, the Gaobeidian People’s Court sentenced Sun to pay a fine of 3.1 million yuan ($ 480,000), the court said in a statement.
The crimes charged against Sun were gathering people to attack official bodies, obstruct public affairs, provoke fights, sabotage production, illegal mining, illegal occupation of farmland and illegally seizing public warehouses, the court said.
The other defendants received sentences of between one and 12 years in prison, according to a statement from the Dawu Groip. He said the company was ordered to repay 1 billion yuan ($ 155 million) of an improperly raised investment.
Sun gained national notoriety in 2003 when he was charged with illegal fundraising by soliciting investments from friends and neighbors for his business. The case sparked a widespread expression of support for Sun.
Since then, Sun has praised lawyers who defend citizens, at a time when several leading figures in the legal profession have been jailed by the Xi government. Sun’s lawyer in the 2003 case, Xu Zhiyong, has been missing since February 2020. Fellow activists say he was charged with treason.
When he was arrested in August 2020, Sun was charged with sparking disputes, a charge used against labor activists and others.
The trial was officially open to the public, but only one spectator from each defendant’s family and 10 from the company were allowed due to coronavirus restrictions, defense attorneys previously said.