Rights lawyer Xie Yang, one of the few still awaiting trial after the 2015 “Black Friday” or “709” crackdown, was expected to stand trial on Tuesday for inciting subversion and disrupting court order. As AFP’s Joanna Chiu reports, however, the trial was indefinitely postponed without notice. Xie’s account of torture during his detention gained worldwide attention, but was dismissed as “fake news” by Chinese state media, apparently as part of the aggressive official response to an eleven-nation diplomatic letter protesting his and others’ alleged mistreatment.
Dozens of supporters and several diplomats gathered at the court in the central city of Changsha for the start of Xie’s trial — believed to be on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” — were told the case would not be heard on Tuesday.
Last-minute delays in sensitive trials are not uncommon even though Chinese law requires courts to give a defendant’s family and lawyers three days notice of any changes, said Amnesty International China researcher Patrick Poon.
[…] “Our country is always emphasising the rule of law, so through Xie Yang’s case we can tell whether or not there is any kind of reality in that,” a supporter at the courthouse told AFP, requesting anonymity.
[…] “We are following this case very closely and our human rights counsellor is in Changsha today,”a Beijing-based EU spokesman told AFP. [Source]
Diplomatic observers at sensitive trials have repeatedly been accused of plotting to overthrow Communist rule in videos shared by official bodies on social media.
A number of citizens including Wang Qiaoling and Li Wenzu demonstrate their support for lawyer Xie Yang in front of the People's Court. pic.twitter.com/DPBVQXHFUL
— 中國維權律師關注組CHRLCG (@chrlcg) April 25, 2017
The AFP report confirms that officials detained one of its journalists for about an hour “to verify his credentials.”
Video of AFP reporter taken away by Chinese police outside Changsha Courthouse where trial of Xie Yang scheduled for today was cancelled https://t.co/ZVmDJcljdG
— C.A. Yeung (@WLYeung) April 25, 2017
The irregular trial postponement follows the replacement of Xie’s lawyers Chen Jiangang and Liu Zhengqing with another, He Xiaodian, which Chen claimed “has been done according to the will of the judiciary — not the interests of Xie and his family.” Xie’s wife, Chen Guiqiu, addressed He in an open letter earlier this month. From a translation at China Change:
We have already clashed once before over this, last September. At the time, Xie Yang had been locked up for 16 months and hadn’t once been able to see his defense lawyers, yet you managed to see him several times! How strange, given that I had never hired you, or met you — yet you were somehow able to enjoy the extralegal privilege of meeting with my husband. And now, without even asking me for a cent or seeking my signature on a Power of Attorney letter, you’ve happily gone to the detention center to see Xie Yang, while the lawyers that I myself hired to defend him, who traveled long distances to Changsha, couldn’t see their client? As a lawyer, why is your allegiance aligned with certain people, and not the law? [Source]
Chen Jiangang and Chen Guiqiu also commented on the case to the U.S.-backed Radio Free Asia ahead of the anticipated trial this week. From Ng Yik-tung and Xin Lin:
“The best thing to do would be to release all of them,” Chen said. “International calls for this are growing very strong now.”
“None of these people have committed any crime, but they insist on jailing them on trumped-up charges, which is the worst kind of inhumanity,” she said.
[…] Defense attorney Chen Jianggang, one of the lawyers who exposed details of Xie’s torture, said he has since been targeted by death threats on social media, and that the authorities’ handling of the case had made a mockery of the right to a legal defense.
“Our right to a legal defense is now worth no more than the paper it is written on,” Chen Jiangang told RFA. “The authorities can just rip it up whenever they feel like it.”
“The law has no effect in the Xie Yang case and as his defense lawyer I feel very heavy hearted and powerless to do anything,” he said. “The law is of no use to us lawyers as a weapon any more.” [Source]
China Change has also translated a December, 2015 post by Chen Jiangang containing a series of anecdotes that provide a fuller picture of Xie. Chen calls the stubborn lawyer “a classic Hunan mule,” and describes his political awakening after he was beaten and threatened with live burial after trying to test rumors about the tight guard around activist Chen Guangcheng during his house arrest in the Shandong village of Dongshigu. He continues with Xie’s defense of New Citizens’ Movement activist Zhang Baocheng in 2014; his journey to Jiansanjiang to support four detained and allegedly tortured lawyers the same year; and his aggressive advocacy for the family of Xu Chunhe, a petitioner shot by police at a Heilongjiang train station in May 2015.
In China, there are quite a few lawyers who don’t approve of Xie Yang’s way of going about things. Indeed, roaring at the judge in the courtroom isn’t known to solve problems. But that’s Xie Yang.
[…] You can’t say he’s a good husband. He was hardly home; he took on cases that placed him in physical and political danger, causing his wife to fret about him and fear for the family. Though a loving father, he’s been detained for more than five months now, and I heard that his daughters have constantly asked: “When will daddy come back?” Does a good father put himself in such danger and risk letting down his children?
Having come to the end of my account, just what kind of person is Xie Yang?
[…] Confucius, some 2,500 years ago, said that “men of principle are sure to have courage,” and that “to see what is right and not do it is want of courage.” He also said, “Men with aspiration and with benevolence do not sacrifice benevolence to remain alive, but would sacrifice themselves for benevolence.” Mencius said, “To live is my desire, and to be righteous is also my desire. If the two can’t be had at the same time, I’d give up life to achieve righteousness.” In our time of moral poverty, Xie Yang is such a man whose actions and choices befit the ideals of Confucius and Mencius. [Source]
Recent research from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab found that Tencent’s Wechat messaging service has been automatically filtering keywords and images related to the crackdown and Xie’s case in particular.