On October 20, the Bengbu Intermediate People's Court, Anhui Province, upheld the first instance trial verdict for activist, Zhang Lin (张林). Zhang was found guilty of “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place” by the Bengshan District People’s Court, Bengbu, on September 5 and was sentenced to three years and six months in prison.
In a weixin message, Zhang's lawyer Wang Yu (王宇) protests the court’s hasty conclusion of the case without even hearing the appeal, and argues that the court has seriously violated the law.
In the message, Wang described what happened when she and Zhang Lin’s younger sister, Zhang Ping (张萍), went to the Bengbu No. 1 Detention Center to visit Zhang Lin at 8:30 a.m. on October 20. Upon arrival, they saw Zhang being escorted by a bailiff to go outside. The bailiff said he was taking Zhang to the court hearing, and Zhang said he was not informed that the hearing would take place that day. Lawyer Wang then rushed to the Bengbu Intermediate People's Court but was barred by a bailiff from entering the building. After inquiring, Wang learned that the proceeding that day was not a hearing but the announcement of the appeals ruling. Wang said that, in handing down a ruling without hearing the appeal, the court “has seriously violated legal procedures and the defendant’s right to a defense.” She said the defense will file a case against those responsible.
In tears, Zhang Lin’s mother, Duan Ruihua (段瑞华) told HRIC:
“The lawyer took an overnight train and went to the detention center early in the morning with my daughter. . . . Our family was never informed that the court had ruled, and his lawyer could not even enter the court building. How very dark this system is. My son has been persecuted over and over, imprisoned for many years, and is suffering from all sorts of medical conditions. Where can we voice our reason and argument? I am so broken-hearted, so sad.”
On February 27, 2013, police physically removed Zhang’s daughter, Zhang Anni (张安妮), from a Hefei school she had just started attending after moving to the city with Zhang, and forcibly returned her to Bengbu, their hometown. The incident attracted widespread public attention. Rights defense lawyers and netizens from various parts of the country came to Hefei and staged protests in support of Anni, calling for authorities to return her to school. Some activists who participated in these solidarity activities were subsequently detained and some even prosecuted and sentenced. In July 2013, authorities detained Zhang Lin on suspicion of "gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place.” Zhang was tried on December 18, 2013 by the Bengshan District People’s Court, which did not hand down a verdict until September this year.
Zhang Lin (张林) is a writer and activist who has served many prison and Reeducation-Through-Labor sentences since the 1980s for his pro-democracy activities and writings. He was released from his previous prison sentence in August 2009. Zhang was awarded the Independent Chinese PEN Center’s “Writers in Prison Award” for his autobiography, Sorrowful Spirt [unofficial translation].