Activists’ Trial Adjourned Early Amidst Disputes and Irregularities

December 4, 2013 Updated: December 4, 2013

The highly publicized trial for three Chinese activists was adjourned Tuesday amidst procedural disputes, with witnesses placed under house arrest, and lawyers harassed outside the courtroom.

Yesterday’s brief resumption of the trial of activists Liu Ping, Wei Zhongping and Li Sihua in Jiangxi province, after being suspended in late October, was closed to all but lawyers and a few family members, reported The Guardian.

“The afternoon session ended after about one hour,” defendant Liu Ping’s lawyer, Yang Xuelin, told Radio Free Asia (RFA), citing procedural problems and differences among the defendants. He said the trial will continue on Wednesday.

The lawyers were concerned that the trial was closed.

Si Weijiang, an attorney for Liu, told RFA that the trial “has become a secret hearing, with only two family members let into the court to observe proceedings.” He went on to explain that, “The court has violated regulations on holding open trials.”

Because the court refused to open the trial, lawyer Yang Jinzhu resigned in protest, lawyer Pu Zhiqiang told Reuters.

Disputing the state’s charges of illegal assembly, attorney Si Weijiang said that they are somewhat ridiculous. “They just took photos outside an apartment,” he said.

The three defendents were jailed for holding up posters which supported other activists who had been detained for their activities, then posting photos of the group on the internet, said China Change. This gathering was the basis for the charge of “unlawful assembly.”

Outside the court, about 200 men surrounded the lawyers and relatives as they approached, shoving them, and hurling insults and mud at them as they waited outside.

They called the lawyers traitors and scumbags, attorney Pu Zhiqiang said. He believes that they were hired by the government to harass the lawyers and relatives.

Family members told The Guardian that police were holding several defense witnesses and their families under guard in their homes, with their cell phones shut off, according to family members. None of the witnesses were allowed to testify at Tuesday’s trial.

The three activists were jailed in April on suspicion of “incitement to subvert state power,” and later additionally charged with “unlawful assembly,” charges that are commonly used by China’s ruling Communist Party (CCP) to lock up activists.

Liu and Wei were charged additionally with “undermining law enforcement,” related to an online post Liu wrote last year about a trial of Falun Gong practitioners.

All have been active in the New Citizen’s Movement, a loose knit group of citizens who have pressed for high level CCP officials to make their assets public, as government officials do in western countries. Although early in Xi Jinping’s term he spoke of cleaning up corruption, critics say his regime has cracked down on citizen whistle blowers and asset disclosure activists.