Chen Guangcheng Trial Opens Tomorrow

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For immediate release, August 17, 2006

Chen Guangcheng Trial Opens Tomorrow:

CRD Calls for Justice for the Advocate for Rights of Family Planning Victims and People with Disability

As the trial of Chen Guangcheng opens tomorrow, CRD calls for international monitoring, urging a fair trial, and asking the Chinese court to look into accusations of illegal detention, obstruction of lawyers carrying out their work, and harassment of citizens trying to attend the trial.

The Yinan County People’s Court in Shandong Province has told lawyers that the trial is rescheduled for August 18, 2006, which has been postponed twice. Mr. Chen’s lawyers Li Jinsong, Zhang Lihui, Xu Zhiyong (a non-lawyer, but acting as citizen representative), and Teng Bia, as well as another lawyer Li Fangping have arrived or are on their way to Linyi. Mr. Li and Mr. Zhang will make a no-guilt defense in court. The lawyers have been under a great deal of pressure from authorities, directly or indirectly, to drop this case.

[Update, August 17, pm: The lawyers, Zhang Lihui, Li Fangping, and the legal scholar Xu Zhiyong, were detained by Yinan police after unidentified men apprehended them, accusing them of “picking pockets” in the streets of Yinan County around 7pm. Mr. Zhang and Mr. Li were released around 10pm, but Mr. Xu remained in detention. Lawyer Li Jinsong had left them at about 6pm and was on his way back to Beijing. He then decided to stay in case the three were not released. Meanwhile, activists in Shandong and Beijing have been called on the phone or visited by state security, who warned them of severe consequences if they try to go to Linyi. A number of them have been put under house arrest or surveillance. The Beijing lawyer Gao Zhisheng was arrested on the 15th of August in Shandong where he was visiting his sister. All contacts to Mr. Gao and his family members and relatives have been cut off. Mr. Gao went to Linyi in July to show support to Mr. Chen.] .

Chen Guangcheng, 35, is one of Time magazine’s « 100 most influential people » for 2005, Asian Weekly’s 2005 « person of the year», a blind, self-taught legal advisor to people with disability and an outspoken critic of forced abortion and sterilization in Shandong’s zealous family planning campaigns.

Since August 2005, Mr. Chen had been under illegal house arrest and detention, including a 6-month forced disappearance, prior to his formal detention and charge in June 2006. Until then, he had been denied outside contacts and visits by lawyers and family. His lawyers were threatened and assaulted when they tried to visit him in detention, interview family and eyewitnesses to collect evidence. His wife and other family members have been harassed. Three other villagers are also detained and charged. Their lawyers suspect that they have been tortured to give testimony against Mr. Chen, which could not be confirmed because the lawyers have been denied visits to their clients.

The proceedings leading up to the Friday trial have been tainted with accusations of illegality – violation of defendant’s rights to freedom from arbitrary detention and torture, right to legal council, and the independence of lawyers doing their job. The trial could not possibly respect the principle of fair trial and basic human rights unless the court looks into these accusations and make necessary remedies.

Around July 17, 2006, the original court date, several dozens of activists and supporters including a group of local people with disability arrived at Linyi, trying to attend the trial. Police questioned them, turned some of them back, and eventually put several of them including the AIDS activist Hu Jia under house arrest when they returned to Beijing. The trial was postponed to July 20 and then further postponed until now. Public trial is a key to justice in tomorrow’s trial. Though authorities have managed to keep most activists and supporters pinned at home, in violation of their freedom of movement and right to due process, family members and friends who request to attend tomorrow’s trial, must be granted entry. The trial of Mr. Chen on suspicion of “destroying property” and “obstructing traffic” involves no “state secret,” a reason frequently cited by Chinese courts conducting closed-door trials in highly profiled cases. In tomorrow’s trial, however, procedural obstacles are likely to be erected to keep the courtroom shut to media and the public, an increasingly favored tactic by Chinese courts.

The Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CRD)

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