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.
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.
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

Pakistan Among Developing Countries Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs