CRD Welcomes Linyi Court Decision to Overturn Lower Court Verdict on Chen Guangcheng; Urges Fair Retrial

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CRD Welcomes Linyi Court Decision to Overturn Lower Court Verdict on Chen Guangcheng; Urges Fair Retrial

The Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders

Immediate Release

Beijing, November 1, 2006

CRD Welcomes Linyi Court Decision to Overturn Lower Court Verdict on Chen Guangcheng; Urges Fair Retrial

CRD welcomes the Linyi City People’s Intermediate Court ruling to overturn the lower court’s guilty verdict on Chen Guangcheng, but cautions against optimism. The case is sent back to the Yinan County Court for a re-trial. Chen Guangcheng, a rural Shandong activist who exposed official use of violence in family planning campaigns, is now serving a 4-year and 3-month sentence for “intentional destruction of property” and “inciting crowds to disrupt traffic.”

The court provides no explanation for this decision. There is no indication what prompted authorities to take this step. Local efforts and international pressures must be a factor. It is a pleasant surprise for those who have tried to gain the release of Chen Guangcheng. Mr. Chen’s peaceful exercise of free speech, of the right to defend human rights and to challenge abusive family planning practices is retaliated by local officials, who have subjected him to illegal residential surveillance, house arrest, detention, and other forms of mistreatment. Mr. Chen remains being held at the Yinan County Detention Center. His wife, Yuan Weijing, who remains under residential surveillance for supporting her husband and speaking out about his mistreatment, reacted to the news with joy and worries.

The Linyi City Intermediate People’s Court held a hearing on the appeal in a closed-door review penal. In mid-October, when the defense lawyers inquired about the date for the trial of second instance, they learnt that the court had already issued its ruling, which was not disclosed to the lawyers but was said to be in print. The court did not seem to have considered the volumes of testimonies by hundreds of eye-witnesses, meticulously prepared by the lawyers for the second trial. The court also failed to comply with legal regulations requiring it to issue a ruling and send it to the lawyers or family before October 20.

It is likely the Linyi Higher Court issued this ruling under orders from government officials above, possibly in Beijing. The motives could only be guessed: among them, the desire to counter international criticisms. Nevertheless, this ruling provides a rare opportunity for rectifying an injustice. In China, administrative/party authorities often intervene in court decisions, particularly in “politically sensitive” cases like this one – only in this case intervention may favor the defendant. The Chinese courts handling such cases often receive instructions on sentencing from the local or higher-level “Judicial and Political Committee” (an office in the government, sometimes a Communist Party apparatus). Judging from the larger context, we believe the Linyi Intermediate Court ruling indicates yet another instance of politics meddling with judiciary decisions, while the lower Yinan County Court’s handling of the Chen Guangcheng case was a textbook case of politics trumping the law.

This move offers a glimmer of hope that Chen Guangcheng could finally get a chance for a fair hearing. But one must react to the ruling with caution: there is little guarantee that a re-trial would be fair.

CRD strongly urges:

1. that the Yinan County Court to abide by the law, respect human rights, and conduct an open and fair trial when it reopens the case in court;

2. that the lower court to consider ordering a new investigation and, if unsubstantiated, the charges against Chen Guangcheng must be dropped;

3. and that judicial authorities elsewhere in the country to respect the rule of law and human rights and assert judicial independence in reviewing appeals for verdicts of alleged unfair trials.

CRD takes this opportunity to call for the release of those detained or imprisoned for peaceful exercise of their civil political rights. These rights are enshrined in the PRC Constitution and the UDHR and the ICCPR, which the PCR government signed (though not ratified). These include Shi Tao, Zhang Lin, Yang Tianshui, Li Yuanlong, Zhao Yan, Guo Qizhen, Li Jianping, Zhang Jianhong, Chen Shuqing, Gao Zhisheng, Guo Feixiong, Yan Zhengxue, Huang Weizhong, Kong Delin, and many more.

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