The Trial of Oil Field Investors: a catalogue of violationsComments Off on The Trial of Oil Field Investors: a catalogue of violations
Trial and sentencing of representatives of private oil field investors is a catalogue of violations of criminal procedure code and human rights:
CRD calls for case to be reopened, Feng released and government to open dialogue to resolve investors’ claims
CRD expresses deep concerns about the fairness of the recent trial of Feng Bingxian and other representatives of the private investors in Shanxi oil fields, due to serious violations of the Chinese Criminal Procedure Law and related international fair trial and human rights standards.
Feng Bingxian（馮秉先）, a representative of private investors in oil fields in Northern Shanxi who had requested a dialogue with local government to resolve their dispute over their property rights, was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment by the Basic Level People’s Court of Jingbian County, Yulin, Shanxi Province, on January 5, 2006. Two other investor representatives, Feng Xiaoyuan (冯孝元) and Wang Shijun (王世军), were each sentenced to two years imprisonment suspended for three years due to their “good attitude in admitting their guilt.” A fourth representative, Kong Yuming (孔玉明), was not put on trial as he is terminally ill. Feng Bingxian is now being held in Jingbian County police detention center, where he has now been for more than 160 days. Immediately after sentencing, Feng Xiaoyuan and Wang Shijun said that they would not appeal, while Feng Bingxian has said he will appeal against his conviction.
Prior to the trial on December 8, 2005, the hearing date had already been postponed several times. Defence lawyer Mo Shaoping acted as Feng Bingxian’s legal representative during the court hearing. The other three defendants had been released under guarantee two months before trial.
CRD believes that this trial violated the Chinese Criminal Procedure Law and related international fair trial and human rights standards.
First, the trial verdict was not made public or even given to family members of the defendants. Secondly, there were a series of violations of trial procedure, including practices which could be considered illegal. One example is that the court arbitrarily decided on what evidence was to be selected. Another is that the content of the indictment against Feng Bingxian was secretly changed during the trial, as Feng mentioned in his defense statement. Most importantly, the evidence of the innocence of Feng Bingxian and the others and the inappropriateness of the charges against them presented in defense statements and many reports and materials published domestically and internationally was ignored by the court. This evidence showed that Feng and the others had been nominated in writing by around 3,000 private investors in the oil fields to represent their interests in a case of illegitimate state expropriation of private property. They were not the ones who violated the law; the real criminals were officials at all levels who illegitimately deprived people of their right to property in the name of the state.
We believe that the ways in which the authorities in northern Shanxi dealt with this case went against the principles of social justice, contravened legal procedure and violated the human rights of the defendants and of the investors guaranteed in the PRC Constitution. The forcible expropriation of the private investors in the oil fields by Northern Shanxi was a violation of citizen property rights, and those responsible should receive legal or administrative punishment according to Chinese law. Private investors who do not accept the expropriation of their property have the right to appeal to the public, to domestic and international media, and to state legal and administrative departments, in order to seek fair and reasonable compensation for the economic losses they have suffered as a result of their private property being expropriated. Government, on the other hand, has the responsibility to listen to their requests and to negotiate a solution; however, the local authorities in this case absolutely refused to engage in dialogue with them to resolve their claims, representing a serious dereliction of duty.
The representatives of private investors in the Shanxi oil fields did not engage in any illegal action to defend their rights; they only submitted petitions, made speeches, held peaceful assemblies and sit-ins to request a dialogue with government, all rights guaranteed in China’s Constitution and in international treaties that the Chinese government has ratified or signed. The government’s labeling of such peaceful exercise of the rights to speech, expression and assembly as “illegal assembly” is a violation of the civil rights enshrined in the Constitution.
Since their efforts to seek dialogue with the local government to resolve the property dispute failed, the oil field investors sought redress through legal channels. Not only did the local court refuse to accept their case, but also the local authorities sent police to detain their representatives and their lawyer Zhu Jiuhu (朱久虎). The local authorities labeled all petitioning activities by the investors and their representatives as constituting the crime of “gathering crowds to disturb social order.”
As defense lawyer Mo Shaoping (莫少平) and Hu Xiao(胡嘯) stated in their brief for the defense of Feng Bingxian (full text available in Chinese below): “The Chinese leaders say that their aim is to build a harmonious society. In order to do so, the state must fully respect and provide proper protection for citizens’ legal property, as well as respecting and protecting their freedom of expression and their right to appeal against injustice.” Requesting dialogue with government and bringing legal action against abuse of state power are forms of expression and efforts to resolve problems through the legal process, and require a respectful and honest attitude from government as well as a fair and independent judiciary.
CRD believes that the imprisonment of citizens who try to use legal and peaceful means to seek justice, such as Feng Bingxian, is an abuse of power. It stands in contradiction to the central government’s commitment to ruling the country according to law and to building up a harmonious society. We therefore request:
An independent investigation by state legal departments.
Immediate release of Feng Bingxian and other private investor representatives and a retrial of their case.
Government should open dialogue with the thousands of private investors in Shanxi oil fields who have suffered economic loss due to the government’s expropriation of their property.
Feng Bingxian（馮秉先）, Feng Xiaoyuan (冯孝元), Wang Shijun (王世军) and Kong Yuming (孔玉明) were detained for acting as representatives of rural investors seeking dialogue with local government to resolve a property rights dispute. The dispute began in March 2003, when the governments of Yulin Municipality and Yan’an Municipality took back more than five thousand oil fields that the government had allowed private investors to invest in and develop. The confiscation caused property loss for more than 1,000 small private enterprises and 60,000 individual investors. The investors first petitioned the government at higher levels, without receiving any response. Then they tried to engage in dialogue with officials and they were unable to find any room for negotiation. As they began preparing lawsuits, police arrested their representatives and their lawyer, Zhu Jiuhu.
On May 11, 2005, about 300 representatives of investors in privatized oil fields from six counties in Northern Shanxi gathered in Xi’an. They submitted a “Request to the Shanxi Provincial Central Communist Party” to ask the city governments at Yulin and Yan’an municipalities to correct the illegal administrative actions by county governments in confiscating previously privatized oil fields. Beginning on May 14, some representatives were detained after dialogues stalled. Local officials tried to threaten the investors so that they would not appeal or go to court. Others were placed under house arrest or went into hiding. A wider manhunt for other representatives was launched. On July 26, Feng Bingxian was arrested after he made an appointment to meet a journalist working for the government China Central TV station to meet in Wuhan, where the journalist promised to make a program about the investors’ plight. Mr. Feng found no journalist at the meeting place, but was surrounded by police from Yulin, Shanxi.
On October 21, Jinbian County Prosecutors’ Office in Shanxi issued an indictment against Feng Bingxian, together with the three other representatives who had been released to await trial in mid-September, on the charge of “gathering crowds to disturb social order.”
January 10, 2006