China Environmental News Digest

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Chinese environmental leader loses appeal on blackmail charges

International Herald TribuneBy Joseph Kahn Monday, November 5, 2007 BEIJING: A prominent Chinese environmental leader lost his appeal of a three-year conviction on blackmail and fraud charges, even as the authorities promised to invest billions to clean up the lake he fought for years to protect. A court in Wuxi, in eastern Jiangsu Province, upheld the conviction of Wu Lihong, who became well known around China for seeking to prevent chemical companies from dumping untreated waste in Lake Tai, China's third-largest freshwater lake. The ruling was made Friday, his wife and his lawyer said Monday. Wu, his lawyer and many of his colleagues in the area's environmental movement said that the charges of blackmail and fraud had been concocted by local officials to put him behind bars after his protests against their collusion with chemical companies attracted widespread media attention. Wu said during his first trial in August that the police tortured him until he confessed, but judges decided that his confession remained valid. The appeals court in Wuxi did not grant his request for a second trial and rejected the appeal without holding a hearing. The case showed how the Chinese authorities have tightened controls on outspoken, grass-roots environmental leaders even as they vow to do more to reduce pollution. A toxic algal bloom on Lake Tai this summer, which officials later said was caused in part by runoff from chemical companies, denied drinking water to several million people for several days in May. Amid national outrage, local officials vowed to close hundreds of chemical manufacturers, and the authorities said they would invest $14 billion to restore the lake, one of the biggest environmental cleanups in Chinese history. Wu, however, was already in custody when the outbreak began. His prosecution was delayed during the algae crisis, but as media attention subsided local authorities held a one-day trial and found him guilty. Technorati Tags: ,

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