Hangzhou Dissident Goes on Trial

Key evidence against a Chinese activist hinges on a poem calling for political change.
2012-01-31
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Police keep watch in Beijing amid online calls for a 'Jasmine Revolution,' Feb. 20, 2011.
AFP

Authorities in the eastern province of Hangzhou have put on trial a prominent dissident for subversion after he published a poem calling on Chinese to take to the streets following the Arab Spring democratic uprisings.

The Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court heard the case against Hangzhou activist Zhu Yufu on Tuesday, but proceedings adjourned after two-and-a-half hours without any verdict, the China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) said in an e-mailed statement.

Zhu, who turns 59 in February, was represented in court by two lawyers, Li Baiguang and Li Dunyong, who were able to present a defense, CHRD said.

The judge adjourned the hearing, saying a decision would be announced after "some of the case evidence is verified."

The trial was attended by Zhu's wife, Jiang Hangli, and the couple's daughter, and Zhu was given the opportunity to protest his innocence, the statement said.

Jiang told Reuters news agency that she feared that her husband could join other dissidents recently given prison terms of nine years and longer for subversion. Chinese courts rarely find in favor of defendants.

"I hope he won't face trouble, but that's a wish. I don't think that they'll let him off lightly," Jiang said in a telephone interview before the trial.

One of the key pieces of evidence against Zhu hinges on a poem he wrote, calling on Chinese people to walk the streets in support of political change.

Lawyers have said the charge sheet against Zhu also cited his habit of collecting donations for prisoners of conscience and giving interviews to foreign journalists.

'It Is Time'

Zhu was formally detained by Hangzhou police last March after he posted his poem, titled "It Is Time" online.

"It is time, people of China! It is time," the poem read. "The square belongs to us all; our feet are our own."

"It is time to use our feet to go to the square and to make a choice ... We should use our choices to decide the future of China," it said.

Zhu, 60, is a veteran activist who first caught the attention of the authorities during the Democracy Wall movement of 1978. He was sentenced in 1998 to a seven-year jail term for his involvement with an unprecedented attempt to register the Zhejiang provincial branch of the CDP as a civil organization with the authorities.

The beginning of the Arab Spring in Tunisia last year sparked online calls for Chinese activists to begin their own "Jasmine Revolution," prompting the detention and suveillance of hundreds of dissidents and rights defenders across the country.

Chinese activists say they were subjected to beatings, humiliation, and brainwashing techniques during the crackdown.

While dozens of those detained by the authorities were eventually freed, many remain under close police surveillance. The Jasmine crackdown has also prompted a string of lengthy jail terms handed to prominent activists for subversion.

Rights groups estimate that at least 40 activists were held under criminal detention in the two months that followed the calls for a Jasmine Revolution—proposed silent demonstrations in major Chinese cities—that, in the event, appeared to attract more police and journalists than protesters.

Reported by Luisetta Mudie.