Beijing: In prosecuting the country`s political and social activists, an image-conscious Beijing is shifting its tactics.
Beijing is increasingly using public disorder charges to lock up those it considers as nuisances or threats to its rule, rather than filing charges of inciting state subversion that amount to political prosecution and drawing international condemnations.
"The scheme is craftier and crueler," said dissident Hu Jia. He spent three and a half years in prison after a 2008 conviction of inciting state subversion that drew criticism abroad against Beijing and won him accolades.
"The government can still lock you up" for nonpolitical crimes, he said. "But those charges spare Beijing from international pressure, because they attract very little attention."
In June 2013, a directive by China`s national prosecutor`s office asked local prosecutors to pursue activists harbouring political intentions by using charges of disrupting public order rather than subversion.
"You must deftly combine political wisdom with criminal policies in striving to achieve legal, political and social purposes in unison," the directive said.
A US-based prison research group, the Dui Hua Foundation, said its analysis of official data showed 830 Chinese people were indicted in 2013 on charges such as subversion, separatism and incitement in China, the smallest number since 2007.
At the same time, Dui Hua said, the number of people indicted with impairing social order has been rising, from barely 160,000 in 2005 to more than 355,000 last year.