China bulldozes critics to try prominent rights lawyer

Prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang. (Photo courtesy: AFP)
Prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang. (Photo courtesy: AFP)

(, Dec16, 2015) – Amid grave international concerns especially expressed by human rights organizations and Western diplomats, China on Dec 14 ended the trial of prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang in just three hours, with the verdict being expected to come out soon. Pu’s associates have been cited as saying the party-controlled judiciary will likely find him guilty to make an example of Pu as a way to warn other rights advocates. He faces eight years in prison if convicted, according to the BBC.

About 50 protesters were reported to have had gathered outside the Beijing No 2 Intermediate People’s Court where the rights lawyer was being tried, along with a couple dozen journalists and about a dozen Western diplomats, including from the United States, United Kingdom and the European Union. Although it was supposed to be an open trial, police scuffled with them when they insisted on being let in.

A large group of aggressive policemen in plainclothes, many of them wearing yellow smiley-face badges, were reported to have pushed, punched and harassed reporters, camera-crews and diplomats away from the front of the court. One US diplomat, Mr Biers, who had tried to attend court as an observer, was jostled along the street as he tried to read a statement condemning China’s treatment of Pu.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of China has condemned the manhandling of journalists, saying that at least one journalist was “slammed to the ground” by a security officer while others were pushed, shoved and punched in the back.

The charges against Pu relate to a number of postings he had made on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo that questioned the ruling Communist Party’s policies toward the Tibetan and Uighur ethnic minorities in the Tibet and Xinjiang regions, and mocked political figures.

Pu admitted to writing the seven microblogs, but pleaded not guilty to all charges.

For form’s sake, Pu is accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble, along with inciting ethnic hatred” – the kind of charge often used against critics of the communist party.

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper alleged in an editorial that Pu had crossed “a legal red line” by associating himself with a topic still considered taboo in China.

However, New York-based Human Rights Watch has said while criticizing Pu’s trial that the administration of President Xi Jinping had “further limited already meager civil and political freedoms” and “carried out a wide-ranging assault on civil society and detained hundreds of activists, targeting lawyers in particular”.

Pu has been in detention since May 2014, after he attended an event to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. He had participated in the Tiananmen protests in 1989 as a student.


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