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Radio Free Asia: China Extends Detention of Rights Lawyer Ahead of Tiananmen Anniversary

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Radio Free Asia

Authorities in the Chinese capital have once more extended the detention of prominent rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, who has now spent a year behind bars without trial, after he marked the anniversary of the military crackdown on the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement.

Pu, 50, is being charged with "incitement to subvert state power," "incitement to separatism," "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," and "illegally obtaining citizens' information."

But authorities have obstructed meetings with his lawyers, who have accused them of deliberately delaying Pu's case to stretch out his detention.

"They are still deciding whether or not to take his case to court," one of Pu's defense lawyers, Mo Shaoping, told RFA.

Pu Zhiqiang (front right) attends a seminar about the Tiananmen
crackdwon in Beijing, May 3, 2014. (Photo courtesy of CHRD)
"The opinion of his lawyers can be summarized in a single sentence," he said. "We are of the opinion that the final result of the police investigation is that none of the four charges against Pu Zhiqiang will stand up."

"Therefore, we submit that the prosecutors' office should decide against proceeding to trial," Mo said.

Pu, one of a number of prominent lawyers currently behind bars in China, was detained following a May 3, 2014 discussion forum on the Tiananmen anniversary.

Within days, his own lawyer Qu Zhenhong was also detained by Beijing police on suspicion of "illegally gathering citizens' information."

Mo said that Qu and Pu will face trial together, if the case against them proceeds.

"She is part of the same case," he said.

Detention extended

A second member of Pu's defense team, Shang Baojun, said he had confirmed that the state prosecutor had extended Pu's detention by 15 days on Monday.

But he said the extension isn't an indication that the case is ready to move to trial. "If it was going to go to trial, they wouldn't have needed the extension," Shang said.

"It's possible that they can't decide what to do," he said. "We will have to wait and see."

But he said that Pu appeared prepared for all eventualities. "He had his family send him clothes to wear in court," Shang said.

China's embattled legal profession ended 2014 with at least seven prominent rights attorneys behind bars, in one of its worst years since its resurgence in the 1980s, rights groups said.

Those jailed include Pu, Qu, Ding Jiaxi, Tang Jingling, Xia Lin and Xu Zhiyong.

Activist arrested

Meanwhile, authorities in the southwestern province of Sichuan on Sunday approved the formal arrest of rights activist Chen Yunfei, detained on April 30 for trying to mark the anniversary of the student movement and the bloodshed that ended it on June 4, 1989.

Chen faces charges of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," and the more serious "incitement to subvert state power," a charge listed in Article 105 of China's Criminal Law that carries a maximum jail term of five years, or longer in the case of "ringleaders" or in "serious" cases.

"This is ridiculous, totally ridiculous," Chen's defense lawyer Ran Tong told RFA. "This is totally in breach of the government's policy of rule by law ... which has brought no benefits to society."

Sichuan-based rights activist Yang Wenting said Chen had planned to mark the anniversary of the crackdown with a brief hunger strike, to show respect to the victims.

"Everything Chen Yunfei did was within the law," she said. "I have known him for many years ... and this charge of picking quarrels and stirring up trouble is just wrong, as is the charge of subversion to subvert state power."

Yang said Chen is "unable to forget" the 1989 crackdown on the student movement that called for democracy and the rule of law, and which brought down late premier Zhao Ziyang in its wake.

"Every year, around this time, he would always remember it," she said. "He would never be able to forget it at a feeling level."

Security increase

Retired Shandong University professor Sun Wenguang, who is under continual police surveillance at his home, said security appeared to be tighter than last year, starting earlier than in previous years in the run-up to the sensitive anniversary.

"There is a greater police presence compared with last year," Sun said on Monday. "Last year, there were people downstairs watching me, but there was still a window during which I could get out of the house in April and early May."

"This year, that's going to be out of the question."

Sun said the increased security measures are the result of a changing public mood.

"Some people are feeling more and more unhappy [with the situation], especially regarding some of the things the government has done," he said.

He said of Pu's continued detention: "Back then, they let everybody else go, and it's only Pu Zhiqiang who has been locked up in there all this time."

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long and Yang Fan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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