Lawyers for Blind Human Rights Activist Arrested On Eve Of Trial

August 19, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: August 19, 2006 12:00 am

CHINA – The trial of blind Chinese human rights activist, Mr. Chen Guangcheng was scheduled for August 18. On the 17th, his defending lawyers, Xu Zhiyong, Zhang Lihui and Li Fangping were charged with theft and arrested by the police. All of them were detained at Jiehu police station. Zhang Lihui and Li Fangping were released after two hours of interrogation. Xu Zhiyong is still in custody.

Attorney Gao Zhisheng was secretly arrested by the authorities on the 15th. Renowned Chinese lawyers Zhang Jiankang and Li Heping said that this is a large scale operation carried out by the Chinese Communist regime. They expressed their strong protests against the arrests of Gao Zhisheng as well as Chen Guangcheng's lawyers, and urged international community to pay close attention to the Chinese Communist regime's latest movements.

Lawyers charged with theft

Professor Xu Zhiyong and attorneys Zhang Lihui and Li Fangping were taken away by policemen on August 17, around Beijing time 7:46pm. Xu was charged with theft while Zhang and Li were charged as his accomplices in stealing a bag.

When the Epoch Times reporter contacted attorney Li Fangping at 10:30pm, he said that he and Zhang Lihui were released an hour and a half ago. They were escorted back to their hotel by two unidentified vehicles. Prior to that, they were interrogated at Jiehu police station for more than two hours. The interrogation was mainly about the theft of a bag. A local said that the lawyers had stolen his bag not long ago and today he has finally found the thief.

Attorney Li Fangping said that this was a set up. He also said that no matter what happens, he will continue to defend Chen Guangcheng.

Before the release of the two lawyers, the Epoch Times reporter rang Jiehu police station. A staff member said that indeed the three lawyers were at the police station a moment ago, but he was not sure if they were still there. He also did not know how they will be dealt with. The police station cannot make this decision. When the reporter asked questions such as why they were arrested, whether the police station was waiting for directives from above, were they arrested to stop them from defending Chen Guangcheng in court, the other party did not answer.

Intellectuals pay close attention to case

Well known Chinese intellectuals Feng Lanrui, Ying Songnian, Jiang Mingan, Zhang Sizhi, Mao Yushi, Wu Si, Du Guang, Teng Biao, Yu Jianrong, Zhang Ming, et al, issued a statement on the 17th. The statement said that what happened tonight was an intentional act by the authorities to obstruct the just proceedings of the trial using barbarian, terrorist tactics.

They urged the authorities to immediately release Professor Xu Zhiyong and also requested a fair trial for Chen Guangcheng.

Chen Guangcheng has been detained by the authorities since March 11 this year. In mid June, he was charged with suspected involvement in “intentionally damaging public property” and “gathering public to disrupt traffic”. Currently he is being detained at Yinan county police station. His trial has been postponed several times.