The government has tried to brush off the publicity generated by the US film director Steven Spielberg’s resignation as artistic adviser to the games over China’s record on Darfur. But Yang Chunlin’s trial for subversion has highlighted another issue blighting hopes of a controversy-free event. Human rights campaigners fear that the government is clamping down on dissent to ensure activists are silenced before the games in August.
Yang, 51, who entered court in leg irons and handcuffs yesterday, has been detained for eight months with little access to his lawyers or his family. Relatives allege he has been tortured.
The unemployed factory worker from Jiamusi in Heilongjiang, north-eastern China, was detained after helping villagers in a row over land seizures. Yang gathered 10,000 signatures for an open letter of complaint entitled: “We want human rights, not the Olympics.”
Read also a Human Rights Watch statement about the trial.