AP reports that the trial of prominent human rights activist Yang Maodong, also known by the pen name Guo Feixiong, was postponed after his lawyers boycotted the proceedings in retaliation for the court’s refusal to provide them with copies of the prosecution’s evidence. From The Washington Post:
A Chinese court on Friday postponed the trial of a human rights activist, Yang Maodong, after his lawyers boycotted the session to protest a denial of their right to copy court files.
Lawyer Lin Qilei quoted family members of fellow defendant Sun Desheng as saying both Yang and Sun told the court that they would remain silent without their lawyers, and the court then decided to reschedule the trial.
[…] On Thursday, his lawyers Chen Guangwu and Zhang Xuezhong said they would not attend the court proceedings because they could not mount an effective defense after authorities did not let them copy court files crucial to the case, including videos and photos related to Yang’s alleged offenses.
[…] Through a statement released by his lawyers late Thursday, Yang said the court had unlawfully deprived him and his legal team of a proper defense. He vowed to remain silent if the trial went ahead. [Source]
Yang, who was detained in August 2013 for his participation in protests outside the headquarters of the liberal and outspoken Southern Weekly newspaper, has a long history of social and political activism. AFP reports:
He is well known for helping residents of a southern Chinese village organise themselves in 2006 against a local Communist Party boss who they accused of illegally selling their land to enrich himself.
Guo was later sentenced to five years in prison for “running an illegal business”, charges his supporters dismissed as trumped up and politically motivated.
After his release in 2011, he called for officials to disclose their assets and in January 2013 helped organise protests supporting the outspoken newspaper Southern Weekend after its new year editorial was censored. He was detained again that August.
“Guo Feixiong is a man of action,” said Beijing-based dissident Hu Jia. “He’s very determined. All he’s done is exercise the rights guaranteed to him under our country’s constitution — freedom of speech, freedom of expression.” [Source]
Yang’s most recent arrest is seen as the latest move by Chinese authorities to intensify the crackdown on activists and political dissidents that has been ongoing since Xi Jinping assumed power. From Human Rights Watch:
Over the past year, the Chinese government has systematically tightened a range of already limited human rights. The government has issued new directives and regulations criminalizing free speech on the Internet and gagging Chinese journalists. The government has issued an internal warning to members of the ruling Chinese Communist Party against “seven perils,” including free press and democracy, in what is known as Document Number 9. This harder-line stance has resulted in the detentions and prosecutions of many activists, including prominent moderate activists such as the lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, the Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti, and the legal scholar Xu Zhiyong.
“Xi Jinping’s government seems bent on destroying a community that is arguably one of its best and most moderate assets in addressing serious problems inside China,” Richardson said. “Guo Feixiong should be serving as an anti-corruption adviser to senior leaders – not becoming another victim of their politicized campaigns.” [Source]
Click through to read the full translation of Yang’s statement, prepared by the China Media Project.