Yang Xiaoqing, a reporter for the China Industrial Economy News (China Chanjing News), was charged with blackmail and extortion after his investigative reports of corruption among local officials in Longhui County, Hunan Province were made public. On May 16, the court of Longhui County convened to try this case but a verdict will be given another day. Hundreds of residents assembled in front of the court to support Yang.
It is said that since 2001 Yang has written several reports exposing local officials' illegal conduct appropriating state-owned property by selling it at a low price to their associates in the name of reform.
Local officials were displeased and managed to stop him from writing more reports. They even threatened him and attempted to kill him. Finally, they arrested him on the charge of extortion.
Zhang Xingshu, the lawyer defending Yang Xiaoqing, is satisfied with his defense during the trial. Yang Xiaoqing also defended his innocence. Zhang thinks their arguments of the law, the use of the facts and evidence, were more persuasive and influential than the complainant.
Zhang believes Yang is innocent from the perspective of the law because of the lack of evidence and an obscure allegation. Based on the understanding of the principle of innocence of Criminal Process Law, he is cautiously optimistic of the court's ruling.
Gong Jie, Yang's wife, said that, “The trial started at 8:30 a.m. and ended at 7 p.m. with a two-hour recess midway. I thought he could be found guilty in the preliminary trial, because the judge told me yesterday Yang Xiaoqing is guilty. Though it was a public trial, only 60 people were allowed to be in the audience and most of them were insiders. Hundreds of people requested to be present. Even our family only got a few seats.”
Longhui County residents were very concerned about this case. Hundreds of people came to support Yang Xiaoqing but they were not allowed to witness the trial, which resulted in physical conflicts with the officials outside the court. Reportedly when the police brought Yang to court and took him away, residents were yelling to him, “We support you, defeating corrupted officials, you are a good man…”
Gong Jie said, “They came on their own and they don't even know each other. They came bus by bus. Some of them were from the countryside. I am really touched.”
According to Gong Jie, Yang Xiaoqing appeared to be in a good state. Yang said in court he was somewhat tortured. He was interrogated repeatedly for several days and was very tired. He is very nearsighted but his eyeglasses were taken away. He couldn't see things clearly. Some written records were not his own words but he was told to sign. The director of the Police Bureau (Nie Chuanli) and the vice director (Xiao Zhaorong) told him, “If you admit and do as what we say, and if you apologize to Yang Jianxin, this case is over. Otherwise, you will be sentenced to three years in a labor camp.”
Li Jian of The Civil Rights Defense Network released two announcements on the website. He is not optimistic about this case. He thinks the trial shouldn't be convened in Longhui County. It was reported there are more than two hundreds pages of documents in this case but the lawyer had only half of them and the other one hundred pages are missing. The lawyer couldn't review the complete case files. In addition, the index of the files is also missing. “It is likely the court is trying to hide something,” Li said.
Li Jian added, “No witness was presented in the trial. All the witnesses, who were requested to be present, were not available. The court simply said they were not informed. So how can the fairness of the legal system be assured? The court has the liability to provide all of the case to the lawyer, including all the files provided by the prosecutor.”
When he was asked when the verdict would be given, lawyer Zhang said, “Forty-five days after the court set the trial, it will give a preliminary ruling. I expect it in the first quarter of June.” When asked whether Yang will appeal if he is found guilty, Zhang said his attitude is clear: he will certainly appeal. “No doubt about this,” he said.
When discussing the recent firings, detentions and sentencing of many journalists, Li Jian said the journalists are repressed when someone wants to hide something or avoid their problems. He thinks this is a very unusual phenomenon. “If things keep on happening this way, it will disrupt social harmony and will not help to solve problems,” he said.