Former journalist tried in court, citizens intending to sit in the court were detained

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Zhang Jialong has pleaded not guilty
to all charges.
(Photo: Twitter)

(Guiyang, Guizhou—May 21, 2020) Zhang Jialong, a former Chinese journalist, was charged with picking quarrels and provoking trouble because of his online speech. The trial was held this week, but the verdict hasn’t been announced. Zhang Jialong appeared in court via video, and he insisted on his innocence. Additionally, local citizens attempting to sit in the court were detained by police for several hours and then released.

On Aug. 12, 2019, Zhang Jialong was taken away by police from his home in Guiyang. Later, he was put under criminal detention on a charge of picking quarrels and provoking trouble. Zhang’s trial was held in the Nanming District Court on the morning of Wednesday, May 13. Mr. Xiao, his lawyer, said that Zhang did not appear in person and instead joined virtually from the detention center. Two lawyers pleaded not guilty on his behalf, and the judge did not announce the verdict in the court. Lawyer Yan Xin met with Zhang at the detention center yesterday, and his physical and mental health is good.

One lawyer said, “During the outbreak of the pandemic, Zhang Jialong didn’t appear in person and joined the court session virtually. They (the authorities) don’t have much evidence, just one article on Twitter … that is it. It is not sufficient evidence. I have no idea when the verdict will be available, but it may take a couple of months.”

Zhang communicated through his lawyers that what he tweeted or retweeted is an expression of his opinions, which is his freedom of speech, so it shouldn’t constitute a crime.

The bill of indictment states that Zhang has tweeted a large amount of fake news blaspheming the Chinese Communist Party, country, and government since 2016, and he should be prosecuted for criminal liabilities on the charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”

Moreover, three Guizhou citizens, including Professor Yang Shaozheng and Xu Guoqing, were intercepted this morning on their way to the court.

Professor Yang said he was pulled over when he drove one kilometer away from his home. He didn’t know they were police at that moment because they were not in uniform and did not show their police ID, so he did not cooperate. They asked other vehicles to stop him from going to the court, and four or five people lined up and formed a wall. Finally, a state security officer arrived, and they all went to a police station.

He also said that they were not investigated when they arrived at the police station. Instead, the police invited them to drink tea in their office. When the group said that they should go to the courtroom to audit the trial, they were prohibited by the officials, even though they were not being detained. He was ultimately released because he didn’t feel well.

Professor Yang said, “As a matter of fact, [the officials] break laws, stopping us from attending the court session and experiencing and witnessing the solemnity of laws. They violate laws, and what they did has problems. [The policeman] said that the task his superiors gave him was to keep us from going to the court. However, it is our legal right to attend a court session. How could you infringe on our rights?”

Zhang, the former editor of Tencent Finance, is active on Twitter and a blogger. He reported news stories about artist Ai WeiWei and human rights defendant Zhao Lianahai.In 2014, Zhang met with US Secretary of State John Kerry, with whom he shared his desire to be a Chinese citizen with full liberties and showed his support for Chinese dissidents Liu Xiaobo and Xu Zhiyong. Later, he was fired by Tencent. In the past few years, he has lived in Guiyang, his hometown, and gotten married, raising a young daughter before he was arrested.

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