News / Asia

Artist Goes on Trial in Beijing

Karen Patterson of Canada, center, wife of Chinese artist Wu Yuren, takes pictures of her supporters after attending her husband's trial at the Wenyuhe Court in Beijing, 17 Nov 2010
Karen Patterson of Canada, center, wife of Chinese artist Wu Yuren, takes pictures of her supporters after attending her husband's trial at the Wenyuhe Court in Beijing, 17 Nov 2010

A Chinese artist is on trial, charged with obstructing and injuring police officers. But his wife and supporters say the charges are retaliation for a protest he led against the destruction of an artists' studio.

Outside the court where Wu Yuren went on trial this week, his wife, Karen Patterson says the case is revenge for his outspoken work, which is often critical of the government.

Wu led a march by fellow artists toward Tiananmen Square earlier this year to protest the violence property developers used in tearing down their studios.

Wu was later charged in May with "obstructing public affairs with violence" after a confrontation with police.

He says five police officers badly beat him, but he is accused of hurting the fingers of one of the officers.

He has been detained ever since, unable to see his Canadian wife and their six-year-old daughter.

His case was adjourned Wednesday when Wu's lawyer, Li Fangping, and Patterson said the police video evidence had been tampered with.

The judge ordered a postponement but no new date has been given. Wu remains behind bars.

Patterson says for the sake of the couple's daughter she hopes her husband will be released soon and cleared. "The fact that he has to spend six months already is a travesty so any sort of sentencing is going to just be disgusting. But obviously a shorter sentence is going to be better than a longer sentence," she says, "I maybe still have hope for an acquittal but from what I understand from people in the know more than me is that acquittals don't happen."

Internationally known artist Ai Weiwei was one of more than 100 supporters outside the courthouse.

"They don't know how to deal with things; they don't know how to communicate. We come for support, we want to witness this very, very typical court hearing which happens everywhere in China, and we want to be part of it," Ai said.

China is under international scrutiny as it seeks to detain those it considers dissidents challenging one party rule. Ai himself was detained recently and prevented from traveling to Shanghai to attend an event marking the destruction of his studio there.

Wu, however, is better known as an artist than as an activist.

But he did sign Charter 08, a public demand for democratic reforms, partly written by Liu Xiaobo, this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner. Liu last year was jailed for 11 years. His wife has been placed under house arrest and his family and friends apparently have been denied permission to go to Norway next month to collect the prize for him.

Several other dissidents and activists have been jailed or detained in the past few years. Earlier this month, Zhao Lianhai was sentenced to two and a half years in prison because he ran a Web site to help families whose children were sickened by milk powder that had been mixed with a toxic chemical.

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