Hainan Forest
The trial of a retired forestry official-turned environmental campaigner, who is charged with illegally publishing and selling his book, began in Hainan Province Thursday.

The case of Liu Futang, 65, has attracted attention from many environmentalist and law experts in the country.

Many people were shocked to learn that Liu was charged with failing to obtain authorization and a license to publish and sell his books that focus on environmental protection. Environmentalists say he gave away the books without charge in the hope of raising awareness of environmental protection.

Chang Cheng, a volunteer from the Friends of Nature, an environmental protection organization, said Wednesday on his Sina Weibo that the organization was dismayed by Liu’s case. The court did not reach a verdict on Thursday.

Some volunteers waited outside the court Thursday, hoping to hear the charges would be dropped. Others followed the hearing from independent reports posted on a special Weibo account.

Zhou Ze, a Beijing lawyer who participated in the hearing, told the Global Times the facts showed that Liu did not register his books with a publisher but directly found a printing house and then distributed the books to others. Liu’s niece sold 14 books on taobao.com.

"Liu did not intend to make a profit from his books. It is not a business activity if he gives them away for free," Zhou said, adding that people gave Liu donations as a form of sponsorship.

During the three-hour hearing, three witnesses talked about Liu’s environmental protection efforts and how he gave away his books, said Zhou.

A deputy to the Sanya People’s Congress of the province said she met Liu during protests against the construction of a power plant in Yinggehai township.

Liu sent her 400 books and asked her to hand them out. She wanted to help Liu cover his cost and wired him some 4,000 yuan ($632.4).

"Based on my experience, Liu Futang is innocent. His books are like personal documents and his freedom of speech should be protected," Zhou said.

Liu devoted himself to environmental protection in 2009. He came in the spotlight a year ago after he made public the destruction of coastal forests in Hainan on his Weibo, arousing a public outcry.

SOURCE: globaltimes.cn

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