Scuffles took place outside Beijing’s Second Intermediate People’s Court on Monday as the trial of prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang began in the Chinese capital.
Foreign diplomats and journalists were among those shoved away by police outside the courthouse, as they attempted to make statements and to cover the trial of the outspoken rights advocate and former defence lawyer to dissident artist Ai Weiwei.
U.S. diplomat Dan Biers tries to deliver a statement outside the trial of rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, and is roughly shoved by Chinese police. This was 100 meters from the gate, on the sidewalk, out of the way.
Posted by Emily Rauhala on 2015年12月13日
Having already spent nearly 19 months in detention, Pu, 50, now faces up to eight years in prison if convicted on charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and “incitement to racial hatred.”
The charges against Pu, are based upon seven messages he posted to micoblogging platform Weibo between 2012 and 2014. In one, Pu asks, “Besides cheating […] what secrets does the Party have to hold on to power?” In others, he criticises the Communist Party’s treatment of ethnic Uyghurs and Tibetans in the wake of the 2014 knife attack at Kunming railway station, which left 29 people dead.
Whilst Pu condemned the attackers, he also criticised the Party’s policies in far-western Xinjiang, which he said governed the restive, Muslim-majority region as though it were “a colony” and “treated [Uyghurs] as enemies.”
During the same two years, Pu posted some 20,000 messages to the website, using twelve different accounts to evade censorship controls.
— Felicia Sonmez (@feliciasonmez) 2015 12月 14日
The moment police prevent EU diplomat from reading statement outside Pu Zhiqiang trial pic.twitter.com/uvScH3llJ4
— Tom Phillips (@tomphillipsin) December 14, 2015
Pu’s closed trial concluded by midday with no verdict announced, his family told reporters. Although he admitted posting the messages, Pu pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. Pu’s lawyer Mo Shaoping said that prosecutors had not demonstrated that any of Pu’s posts had provoked troubles or incited ethnic tensions.
In a statement, Human Rights Watch’s Sophie Richardson said that “nothing Pu Zhiqiang has written has violated any law, but the authorities’ treatment of him certainly has. A guilty verdict will be an indictment of the Chinese government, its law, and its legal system – not of Pu.”
Taiwanese writer Lung Ying-tai, formerly the country’s cultural minister and one-time resident of Hong Kong, was also among the politicians and human rights advocates to express solidarity with Pu. “We want to know just how civilised this ‘Chinese Dream’ of yours is,” she wrote online, mocking President Xi Jinping’s prized catchphrase.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China also condemned police obstruction outside the courthouse, writing that “this effort to deter news coverage is a gross violation of Chinese government rules governing foreign correspondents, which expressly permit them to interview anybody who consents to be interviewed.”