Chinese businesswoman, who spoke up for Beijing critic, jailed for 3 years

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Beijing [China], February 11 (ANI): A Chinese businesswoman, who defended dissident law professor Xu Zhangrun, has been sentenced to three years of jail, South China Morning Post reported.
Geng Xiaonan, 46, and her husband Qin Zhen, as well as employees of her private publishing company, stood trial at the Haidian District People’s Court in Beijing after the couple were detained in September and investigated for “illegal business operations”.
Geng, who is also an art curator and film producer, was detained, along with her husband, two months after she had spoken out in support of Xu.
Xu had been detained by police for “patronising prostitutes” during a trip which Geng organised for a group of academics including Xu to the southwestern city of Chengdu last year. Xu, who has since been released but cannot leave Beijing, denies the charges and has hired lawyers to clear his name.
Geng was sentenced to three years of imprisonment on Tuesday. There was a heavy police presence outside the court and the supporters said they were barred from entering. Friends including Xu and activists Ji Feng and Yan Zhengxue were stopped by the authorities from leaving their homes to attend the hearing.
After asking the court to disregard her legal defence, Geng pleaded guilty to charges including conducting illegal business activities, according to a video of the trial that was captured and posted online.
In pleading guilty, Geng asked the court for leniency in the cases of her husband and staff, saying they had been “forced to carry out orders from their boss”. She also contradicted her legal defence and claimed to have been “the sole proprietor and decision-maker” of the publishing company since 2001.
“I would really appreciate it if the court would be lenient on them and target all of the sentencing burden on me alone,” Geng said.
She also asked the court to consider giving her a lighter sentence on humanitarian grounds since she is the only child of, and supports, her disabled war veteran father who lives alone.
A number of Geng’s supporters, including prominent liberal intellectual Guo Yuhua, went to the Haidian court but were blocked from entering. Witnesses said more than a dozen police vehicles were parked outside the court, and Geng’s lawyers had been warned not to speak to the media. (ANI)

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