News / Asia

Prominent Rights Activist Faces Trial in China

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.
x
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.
William Ide
A prominent Chinese rights activist and legal scholar who has waged a high-profile campaign against government corruption will go on trial Wednesday. Xu Zhiyong is the founder of a group that advocates for the rule of law in China and urges top officials to improve government transparency by publicly disclosing their assets.

Xu Zhiyong and other members of the New Citizens Movement have been accused of inciting five separate protests in Beijing last year. Two focused on the education rights of the children of migrant workers. At the other gatherings, members called on government officials to disclose their assets and urged the public to sign a petition in support of the proposal.

Officials say that by gathering in some cases more than a hundred people and attracting public attention to the issues they were advocating, Xu and others created what the indictment says was “serious chaos.” There were no reports of any being injured, but the indictment says Xu and others obstructed police in carrying out their duties.

Xu’s lawyer Zhang Qingfang says his client is innocent.

Silent protest

Zhang says Xu Zhiyong will remain silent in court to protest the court’s handling of the case. He says that after the hearing the defendants will issue their reasoning in the case and their opinions.

Zhang says one key disagreement with the court’s handling of the case is that Xu and others have been charged with disrupting public order in connection with the same five events, but are being tried separately. Zhang and rights advocates say that is a violation of China’s laws and an attempt to cover up the truth.

Zhang says that cases that refer to the same event need to be tried in the same court. He says that authorities are dividing up the trials so that defendants have no way of knowing what the other prosecutors are saying and what is going on in the other trials.

Dozens of members of the New Citizens Movement were detained in China last year as they tried to exercise their rights to assembly and freedom of expression. Chinese human rights defenders say more than 60 are connected with the movement that advocates social justice, doing good for society and civil participation. 

Rights lawyer Chen Jiangang, who is representing two other members of the group scheduled to go on trial this Friday, says that while his clients are in good spirits, it was clear from the moment they were detained what the verdict in their case would be.

Chen says the results will not come through the trial, but are decided by powerful institutions and other high-ranking officials. He says the judgments for the trials have already been written.

'Ordinary criminal case'

Chinese authorities say the “ordinary criminal case” is being handled in accordance with China’s laws and accuse any who would raise criticisms as meddling in the country’s judicial affairs.

Ye Shiwei of the advocacy group Human Rights in China says Xu and others are facing criminal charges for activities that are clearly peaceful and legal under Chinese and international law.

“The fact that they are being put on trial already seriously undermines China's professed adherence to the rule of law. Any potential irregularities in the case will also contribute to undermining the image that China is trying to project to the world,” says Ye.

The trial is being closely watched by the international community and rights advocates.  China has long used its courts to silence dissent. But China’s new leader Xi Jinping has pledged to bring more justice to the country, reform its judicial system and fight corruption. Some see the trial of Xu and others as a test of his commitment to that pledge.

You May Like

Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More