The defendant, Wu Yuren, 39, is accused of assaulting a group of police officers at a Beijing police station last May. He had gone to the station house with a friend who was seeking to file a complaint against his landlord, but Mr. Wu ended up in a verbal confrontation with several officers after they grabbed his cellphone, said the friend, Yang Licai.
The police officers say Mr. Wu attacked them. Mr. Wu says it was he who was beaten, a contention supported by Mr. Yang, who heard his cries from an adjoining room after his friend was dragged away. “The screams were terrifying,” said Mr. Yang, who was released 10 days later.
But Mr. Wu’s supporters say they believe that the beating, prosecution and six months he has already spent in jail are revenge for a protest he helped organize on Chang’an Avenue, the ceremonial boulevard that runs past Tiananmen Square and the heavily guarded compound housing China’s top leaders.
Mr. Wu and about two dozen other artists briefly took to the streets last February after a group of men swinging iron rods tried to evict them from the studios they occupied in an arts district that was standing in the way of a redevelopment project. The protest apparently had the desired effect: several weeks later, the landlord seeking their eviction agreed to a fairly generous compensation package in exchange for their departure.
Wu’s friends and supporters gathered at the courthouse yesterday during the trial and many tweeted updates using hashtag #WYR. Wu’s wife, Canadian citizen Karen Patterson, wrote a lengthy description of what she saw and heard inside the courtroom yesterday.