The trial of one man, Huang Qi, began Wednesday but adjourned without a verdict. Mr. Huang, a well-known blogger and civil rights campaigner, is accused of possessing state secrets, which carries a sentence of five years to life. The second defendant, Tan Zuoren, a writer and also a prominent rights advocate, faces a potential five-year sentence for subversion and is to go on trial Aug. 12. The charges are broad ones the Chinese government often uses to silence people who publicly challenge the government.
“These trials are not about a reasonable application of the law, but about silencing government critics whose work has considerable public benefit and sympathy,” Sophie Richardson, the Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group based in New York, said in a written statement released Tuesday. “The government is likely seeking to squelch those who cause it embarrassment, but in the process it is undermining domestic and international confidence in its ability to cope in a transparent way with natural disasters.”