On Constitution Day, Lawyers Attacked Outside Court

The second trial of three civil society activists for illegal assembly continued in Jiangxi on Wednesday, as defense lawyers and family members of the accused were confronted by an aggressive crowd outside the courthouse. From Sui-Lee Wee at Reuters:

The trial of Liu Ping, Li Sihua and Wei Zhongping is being closely watched by China’s human rights community because it is the first prosecution of anti-graft activists and comes amid what rights groups have described as the first major crackdown against activists by the new government of President Xi Jinping.

[…] As the lawyers waited outside the court in southern China for authorities to answer their request for an open trial, about 200 to 300 men surrounded and shoved them, hurling insults like: “Traitor lawyers, scum of the Chinese nation”, according to prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang.

Pu said he believed these were government-appointed thugs.

“They were very familiar with the presence of the police and were organised,” Pu said. “I think the (officials) in Jiangxi and Xinyu have gone overboard.” [Source]

One of the six defense lawyers, Yang Jinzhu, has resigned in protest at these conditions. Human Rights In China translated a weibo post by Pu describing the scene:

December 4 is China’s Constitution Day. But our trial in Xinyu did not go well. All these years, I have become experienced in dealing with how they maintain stability inside the court. But this was the first time that I have ever seen such helter-skelter outside the court. There were about 200 people outside the court house who looked like workers, who verbally abused me, calling me a “hooligan lawyer,” “traitor,” a “scumbag of the Chinese people,” while police officers looked on without taking any action. [Source]

The New Citizens’ Movement of which Liu, Li and Wei are members suffered a further blow on Wednesday, as wealthy backer Wang Gongquan reportedly confessed to “disturbing public order” after nearly three months in detention. From Keith Zhai at South China Morning Post:

[Sources] said Wang, who is a close friend and supporter of arrested rights activist Xu Zhiyong, confessed to police and said in a taped video he would “sever the relationship” and “draw a line between himself and Xu”.

One of the sources, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the case, said Wang’s gaunt appearance in the video added to fears he had been mistreated during detention.

[…] Late on Wednesday, Wang’s attorney, Chen Youxi, said on his verified microblog account Beijing police had told Wang’s wife that her husband had volunteered to dismiss Chen as his defence lawyer.

“We cannot verify if the dismissal is based on Wang’s own interests,” Chen said on his Sina Weibo account, adding the detention house had rejected his most recent request to meet Wang. [Source]

See more on Wang’s case via CDT. SCMP’s sources fear that his confession will be aired on state broadcaster CCTV, continuing a recent trend that has unsettled observers of China’s legal system.