The trial of Xu Zhiyong (许志永), a key advocate of the New Citizens Movement, ended today without a verdict. Xu, a constitutional law scholar and vocal supporter of education equality and asset transparency, is charged with “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place,” and faces up to five years’ imprisonment. Only two of Xu's family members—his wife and his older sister—were allowed to attend the trial, which took place at the Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court, the same court that tried Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波) in December 2009.
Xu’s two lawyers, Zhang Qingfang (张庆方) and Yang Jinzhu (杨金柱), told HRIC that they and Xu remained silent during most of the court hearing to protest the unjust nature of the trial. In the afternoon, when Xu began delivering his final statement, “For Freedom, Justice, and Love,” the court interrupted him and announced the conclusion of the trial. During the hearing, the prosecutor is reported to have requested a heavy punishment for Xu.
Information provided online by rights defenders, journalists, and other eyewitnesses paints a scene of heavy police presence—both uniformed and plain-clothes officers—outside the court house, where supporters gathered, some carrying and unfurling banners calling for the release of Xu and other New Citizens Movement activists.
According to an eyewitness outside the courthouse, a netizen jumped over the police cordon and attempted to rush toward the gate of the court while crying “Xu Zhiyong is not guilty.” He was seized by a group of police officers and taken to the Babaoshan police substation. He is reportedly still in custody.
In tweets, NBC News producer Ed Flanagan reported a three-block security cordon around the courthouse; CNN reporter David McKenzie said he was “Manhandled, detained, and [his] equipment broken near Xu Zhiyong trial”; and Jo Floto of BBC said that reporter Martin Patience was “bundled by thugs and cops while broadcasting live.”
According to reports, a number of people have been taken away by the police—although the exact number cannot be verified at this point—including human rights lawyer Liang Xiaojun (梁小军), Sichuan activist Chen Yunfei (陈云飞), and Shanghai petitioner Wu Yufen (吴玉芬). They were reported to have been taken to police stations, detention centers, or custody centers for petitioners. Liang was taken away after he talked to foreign reporters on the scene. He was later released from the Babaoshan police substation at around 4:50 p.m. and reported that there are about a dozen petitioners still detained there. The status of others taken away remains unknown at the time of this case update’s release.
Beijing-based human rights defenders have also reported that, before the trial, the authorities had begun monitoring and restricting their movement since January 20. An activist says in a Weibo post that the state security unit of the Beijing Public Security Bureau instructed its subunits in all counties and districts in and around Beijing to tighten control of individuals designated as “stability maintenance targets,” starting at 7:00 p.m. on January 20, in order to prevent these people from showing up at the Xu Zhiyong trial and at the Haidian District Court, where other activists in the New Citizens Movement are scheduled to be tried in the coming days.
See schedule of other trials of rights defenders to take place Thursday and Friday, January 23, 24, and 27.