Successful Chinese Entrepreneur Stands Trial for Defending Free Speech

(p. A10) Like many entrepreneurs in China, Geng Xiaonan found a space in which to make a small fortune — in her case, publishing books on cooking, health and lifestyle.

But unlike many Chinese entrepreneurs, she mixed with critics of the party, organizing dinners and salons that brought together liberal intellectuals, retired officials and longtime dissenters.

Now, Ms. Geng is set to stand trial in Beijing on Tuesday [Feb. 9, 2021] and may spend years in prison for her support for those at odds with China’s deepening authoritarianism, her supporters say. She and her husband, Qin Zhen, have been charged with illegal business activities related to their publishing company. Friends and sympathetic legal experts maintain that her real offense in the eyes of the government was straying from business into sympathizing with critics of Communist Party power.

Ms. Geng, 46, came under growing surveillance last year after she leapt to the defense of Xu Zhangrun, a law professor in Beijing who was suspended after publishing essays scathingly critical of the party and its top leader, Xi Jinping.

“This is simply political persecution,” said Cai Xia, a former professor at the Central Party School in Beijing, who said she had been friends with Ms. Geng for about eight years. Ms. Cai has moved to the United States, where she has denounced the Chinese Communist Party’s tightening of political controls.

“It’s a selective system of enforcement,” Ms. Cai added. “They can make up whatever they want when they want to slap a crime on you.”

Ms. Geng is the latest among a handful of Chinese entrepreneurs detained or imprisoned since last year as the party draws a harder line on businesspeople it deems challengers of Beijing’s rule.

For the full story, see:

Chris Buckley. “Chinese Entrepreneur Was Model of Success, Then She Got Too Close to Critics of the Party.” The New York Times (Tues., February 9, 2021): A10.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 8, 2021, and has the title “This Chinese Businesswoman Was a Model of Success. Then She Angered the Party.”)

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