News / Asia

    Verdict for Chinese Dissident Expected Sunday

    FILE - This July 17, 2009 file photo shows legal scholar Xu Zhiyong at a meeting in Beijing, China.
    FILE - This July 17, 2009 file photo shows legal scholar Xu Zhiyong at a meeting in Beijing, China.
    VOA News
    The lawyer for Chinese dissident Xu Zhiyong, who went on trial on Wednesday, said the verdict will be announced Sunday morning, just days after the one-day trial.

    Xu's lawyer, Zhang Qingfang, said he'd been notified in writing by authorities as early as Wednesday, when Xu's trial kicked off, that he would be sentenced on Sunday.
     
    “This means that even before the trial, the court had already communicated this and that they had already discussed what the verdict would be and the timing of the sentencing,” Zhang told Reuters by telephone.
     
    Zhang said he believed the swift sentencing suggested authorities wanted politically sensitive cases like Xu's to be closed ahead of the March meeting of China's rubber stamp parliament, the National People's Congress.
     
    Xu was charged with "gathering crowds to disrupt public order." He stayed silent and did not defend himself at his trial and, if found guilty, could face five years in prison.

    Xu, a 40-year-old legal scholar, founded the grassroots New Citizens Movement, which supports democracy and the rule of law and supports a crackdown on corrupt officials.
     
    A total of seven New Citizens Movement members are standing trial this week and next. Three others were tried in December, though verdicts have not yet been delivered.

    The campaign against the movement exposes the ambivalence in Beijing's bid to root out corruption, even as the authorities claim greater transparency.
     
    Xu's trial is China's highest-profile dissident proceeding since 2009, when Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo was put on trial for subversion after he helped organize the “Charter 08” petition, which urged the overthrow of one-party rule. Liu was jailed for 11 years.
     
    The Chinese government has intensified a clampdown against the human rights community nationwide over the past year.
     
    In Guangzhou on Friday, supporters of activist Liu Yuandong were barred from attending his trial as dozens of uniformed police guarded and blocked access to the area.
     
    Rights lawyers including Liu Shihui and Chen Jinxue were manhandled by police according to Twitter posts by supporters, including Cao Yaxue who said Chen had “been wrestled to the ground by several state security officers and beaten.”
     
    Liu is accused of gathering a crowd to disrupt public order during a series of street protests last January outside the gates of the Southern Weekly. That protest was against excessive censorship at the influential Chinese newspaper.
     
    Several other prominent activists are due to go on trial soon, including Guo Feixiong, who was also detained last year in Guangzhou in connection to the Southern Weekly protests.
     
    On Thursday, Zhao Changqing, a veteran dissident, and Hou Xin, a campaigner, also went on trial in Beijing.
     
    The U.S. State Department has criticized the crackdown, prompting an angry reaction from Beijing. On Tuesday, China's Foreign Ministry said foreign countries should not interfere with its internal issues.
     
    Some information in this report was contributed by Reuters.

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