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Politics

Outspoken Chinese agribusiness tycoon given 18-year sentence

Sun Dawu convicted after dispute with state-owned rival

Sun Dawu was a prominent defender of public interest lawyers subject to an earlier Chinese government crackdown.    © AP

BEIJING (AP) — A prominent Chinese pig farmer who was detained after praising lawyers during a crackdown on legal activists by President Xi Jinping’s government was sentenced Thursday to 18 years in prison on charges of organizing an attack on officials and other offenses.

Sun Dawu, chairman of Dawu Agriculture Group, was among 20 defendants who stood trial in Gaobeidian, southwest of Beijing in Hebei province. They were detained after Dawu employees in August 2020 tried to stop a state-owned enterprise from demolishing a company building.

Sun also was fined 3.1 million yuan ($480,000), the People's Court of Gaobeidian said in a statement. It said other defendants were convicted and sentenced but gave no details.

Sun became nationally known in 2003 when he was charged with illegal fundraising after soliciting investments for his business from friends and neighbors. The case prompted an outpouring of public support for Sun.

Since then, Sun has praised lawyers who help the public at a time when prominent legal figures have been imprisoned by Xi’s government. Sun’s lawyer in the 2003 case, Xu Zhiyong, disappeared in February 2020. Fellow activists say he was charged with treason.

In the latest case, Sun and other defendants are charged with fighting with police, organizing a protest, sabotaging production, obstructing public services, illegal mining, illegally occupying farmland and illegally taking public deposits, according to a copy of the charges given out by defense lawyers.

Sun was accused of “provoking quarrels,” a charge used against labor and other activists, when he was detained in August 2020.

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