Xu Zhiyong trial: Chinese activist and lawyer make ‘silent protest’ in court

Mr Xu is charged with 'gathering a crowd to disturb public order', punishable by up to five years in prison

beijing

Prominent Chinese rights advocate Xu Zhiyong has gone on trial in the country’s most high-profile dissident case in years, but his lawyer said he refused to offer any defence and called the court unjust.

Outside the courtroom, Mr Xu’s supporters chanted slogans and raised banners in his support. Police pushed away the crowd and at least three protesters were taken away to a police van.

The government has waged a 10-month drive against Mr Xu’s “New Citizens’ Movement”, which advocates working within the system to press for change, including urging officials to disclose their assets.

The campaign against the movement exposes the ambivalence in Beijing’s bid to root out corruption, even as the authorities claim to be promoting greater transparency.

Mr Xu, 40, is charged with “gathering a crowd to disturb public order”, punishable by up to five years in prison.

Speaking to reporters by telephone at the end of the trial, which, as is common in China, lasted a single day, Mr Xu’s lawyer Zhang Qingfang said prosecutors demanded a heavy punishment.

Mr Xu, he added, maintained his silence throughout. “At the end, he wanted to express freedom, justice and love in his speech, but because this content was not allowed by the courthouse and the court eventually interrupted him, he didn’t say it,” Mr Zhang said.

Mr Zhang had earlier said both he and Mr Xu would maintain silence during the closed-door proceedings because they did not believe the court would grant a fair trial.

Mr Zhang said that he was frustrated that the court only allowed him to produce two witnesses.

Five witnesses that he had requested testify in court have been put under police guard and been prevented from moving around freely. One of them, he said, has been taken to a motel.

“Our maintaining silence does not mean we will not express our views. But we believe this court is not worth expressing our views,” Mr Zhang said.

China has detained at least 20 activists involved in pressing for asset disclosure, though not all are from the New Citizens’ Movement.

Six will stand trial in Beijing and the southern city of Guangzhou on Thursday and Friday. Three went on trial in December and face more than 10 years in prison if convicted.

Mr Xu’s is China’s highest-profile dissident trial since 2009, when the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo was put on trial for subversion after he helped organise the “Charter 08” petition urging the overthrow of one-party rule. Liu was jailed for 11 years.

Despite the increased security presence near the courthouse, close to two dozen Xu supporters turned up at the start of the trial, joining many reporters and photographers. But police pushed them away and closed off the road outside the courthouse, saying the crowd did not have permission to gather. Three supporters were hauled away.

Hu Jia, a prominent dissident, said state security officers told him and five other activists not to leave their homes.

About 10 to 15 supporters unfurled a banner that read: “Citizens request officials to publicly disclose assets.”

“Down with corrupt officials”, “Xu Zhiyong is not guilty” and “Free Xu Zhiyong,” they chanted.

A known legal scholar, Mr Xu also campaigned on behalf of inmates on death row and families affected by tainted baby milk formula in 2009.

Diplomats  were not allowed to enter the court.

Reuters

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test