Film Maker To Stand Trial For Documentary About China’s Constitutional Governance

Chinese filmmaker to stand trial for constitution documentary is the headline and to us it really says it all about the recent 4th Plenum talkfest. Interestingly the filmmaker has been charged for “Illegal Business Activity” .. something Shen Yongping argues he can’t be charged for as he hasn’t made any money from the film or participated in any business activity related to the 8 part documentary.. yet again the concept of “Rule of Law” in a technocratic dictatorship comes unstuck at high speed although we imagine that jail time is very likely on the cards.

By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING (Reuters) – A filmmaker who made a documentary on China’s
constitutional governance will stand trial on charges of “illegal business
activity”, raising questions about Beijing’s promise to uphold the rule of
law in accordance with the constitution.

Shen Yongping will be the first person prosecuted for documenting China’s
constitutional history in a film called “100 years of constitutional
governance”, his lawyer, Zhang Xuezhong, told Reuters in a telephone
interview on Monday.

The trial comes at a time of increased optimism among some Chinese scholars
about Beijing’s willingness to enforce the supervision of China’s
Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression.

But Shen’s detention and other arrests have eroded some of that optimism.
Chinese intellectuals and international rights groups have denounced
President Xi Jinping’s administration for the worst suppression of human
rights in years.

The film is about “the Chinese people’s pursuit of constitutionalism from
the time of the Qing dynasty till the present day, and their failed
experiences,” Zhang said, adding that he will argue the eight-episode
documentary is not illegal.

The 33-year-old Shen has been held at Beijing’s Chaoyang District Detention
Centre since late April, Zhang said.

Police had warned Shen during the filming that if he persisted in making
the documentary, he would “definitely go to prison”, according to Zhang.

Police in Beijing were not immediately available for comment.

Shen will be tried on Nov. 4 in a court in Beijing, Zhang said. If
convicted of engaging in “illegal business activity”, he could be sentenced
to five years or more in prison.

The documentary “does not constitute a crime” because Shen never engaged in
any business or made any profit from his film, Zhang said, adding that Shen
will plead not guilty.

“This accusation is extremely absurd. ‘Illegal business activity’ has now
become another tactic for them to conduct their political suppression,”
Zhang said.

Shen had raised over 100,000 yuan ($16,354) to make this documentary from
individual supporters on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, and had
intended to make the documentary for them, Zhang said.

The film was released on Weibo sometime around April or May, according to
his lawyer. He also made 1,000DVD sets, but they had been confiscated by
the police.

Shen previously wrote a book on the nationalists’ cooperation and
subsequent struggles with the Communist Party. The nationalists, known as
the Kuomintang party, retreated to Taiwan after losing the Chinese civil
war in 1949.