Activists Stand Trial Over 2013 Press Freedom Protests (Updated)

Activists Stand Trial Over 2013 Press Freedom Protests (Updated)

A new trial for activists Guo Feixiong and Sun Desheng began on Friday amid heavy security after their lawyers boycotted an earlier session in September in protest at procedural violations. From James Pomfret at Reuters:

Guo Feixiong, 48, was arrested for taking part in a rare public protest against media censorship outside the offices of the Southern Weekly newspaper in January last year [see CDT’s coverage] in the southern city of Guangzhou.

[…] Zhang Lei, one of Guo’s lawyers, confirmed on social media that the trial had began, but said the court had barred them from bringing computers into court, and that authorities had stifled or forcibly dismissed any arguments or objections Guo or his lawyers raised in an “intense” morning session.

[…] Security was tight outside the Guangzhou People’s Court with scores of police blocking roads. Foreign media and diplomats were barred from observing the trial, while local activists and supporters were taken away by police, according to witnesses. [Source]

Human Rights Watch urged that charges against Guo and Sun be dropped, calling the two “allies in strengthening the rule of law, not enemies of the state.”

Guo, whose real name is Yang Maodong, and Sun have been detained since August 2013 and are charged with “gathering crowds to disturb social order.” The two were originally scheduled to be tried on September 12, 2014, but the trial was rescheduled because their lawyers boycotted the proceedings. The lawyers said that authorities had failed to give them sufficient advance notice of the trial date, barred them from copying case materials, and refused to try two others involved in the same case in the same trial, all violations of Chinese law. Guo and Sun remained silent during the September proceedings to protest these procedural violations.

[…] Guo has been abused during his 15 months in detention. Although Article 25 of the Detention Center Regulations requires that detainees be allowed out of their cells to exercise every day, Guo has not been allowed out of his overcrowded cell once. [Source]

The statement adds that China “appears to be increasingly using criminal prosecutions on spurious charges against activists,” pointing out recent developments in the cases of rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, journalist Gao Yu, and Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti.

Updated at 16:27 PST on November 28: The trial concluded at nearly 3 a.m. on Saturday. At China Change, Louisa Chiang and Perry Link translate Guo’s closing statement to the court, a defiant account of his political history, his current prosecution, and his vision of continued activism to guide China through the aftermath of one-party rule.

It is no surprise that the government construed these […] political experiments as my crime of “disturbing the public order.” An ancient proverb laughs at the folly of “bargaining with a tiger for its skin,” but that is precisely the task we have to undertake. We need to force a totalitarian government to shed its tiger’s skin, resume its humanity, and return to us the rights that belong to us.

The sentencing that I will now be facing will be consistent with the government’s entrenched habits of persecution. I am very honored to have landed in jail for my work. I hope that more citizens will come forward to join the fight for freedom when they see the dozens of us who are in jail. For me personally, another stint in prison may help to cleanse and mend me in small ways. Regardless of how long my sentence is this time, the first thing I will do when they let me out will be to go out and support constitutional democracy through direct action.

[…] As an aging veteran whose life has been given to democracy, when I look back over the last thirty years, I truly feel that our exploration and toil have not been in vain. Our path is becoming ever clearer, and the horizons of our souls ever broader. To have had the opportunity to rush forward on the front line of the movement for freedom, tortuous as it has been; to have gone against the tide and borne the cost of doing so; and to have glimpsed the beauty inherent in my personal tragedy and in the sacred purity that is part of paying the price – these have been the immense good fortune of an ordinary man, whose feet are planted on the ground and over whose head the heavens arch, as conceived by our ancestors long ago and writ large in the Chinese character for “human.” [Source]

Updated at 17:14 PST on November 28: China Change has also translated comments from Guo’s defense lawyers that were relayed on Twitter by Radio Free Asia’s Zhang Min:

Li Jinxing told Min Zhang of RFA that, during the course of the entire proceeding, the court violated the rights of the defendants and the defense lawyers. The court repeatedly and rudely interrupted the speeches of the defense lawyers and the defendants, and also repeatedly warned and chided the defense. It did so while the defense lawyers spoke, during the cross-examinations, and while the defendants spoke. In the end, Sun Desheng was interrupted while making a closing statement. The young man told the court how he grew up and how he chose to be a democracy activist. The court ordered the court marshals to take away Guo Feixiong’s written statement and then arbitrarily announced the end of the trial. […]

[…] Lawyer Li Jinxing told RFA that “in my ten years of practice as a lawyer, this was the most barbaric court I have ever been to.” “We felt the court was like a fascist, Cultural-Revolution style apparatus, and the judge pushed the trial forward so crazily that it felt like a tank bulldozing the proceeding.” [Source]


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