Trial of Inner Mongolia Petitioner Linked to Surveillance Row Adjourned Again

Wang's status remains unknown, while her husband's defense attorney is taken away from the courtroom after a hasty trial.

Wang Fengyun is shown after being beaten by police following her first trial in Inner Mongolia's Duolun county, March 14, 2017.

Authorities in the northern Chinese region of Inner Mongolia on Thursday retried an activist beaten unconscious by police at her last trial, alongside her husband, according to a family member.

Wang Fengyun, the petitioner at the heart of a row over a local government surveillance budget earlier this year, stood trial alongside her husband Zhang Shufeng on charges of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble" at Inner Mongolia's Duolun County People's Court.

The couple were tried in separate courtrooms, but faced identical charges. Zhang's trial ended, with a verdict and sentencing expected within six weeks, but Wang's was once more adjourned after just one hour, her brother told RFA.

He said only close relatives were allowed to attend the trials.

"Security was incredibly tight today. There were large numbers of riot police and their vehicles outside the court buildings," Wang's brother Wang Fenglong said.

"They wouldn't allow us to take any items we had on us into the courtroom, not even a packet of cigarettes," he said.

He said Zhang's trial was wrapped up very quickly.

"My brother-in-law Zhang Shufeng's trial was brought to a rather confused end," Wang Fenglong said. "The worst thing about it was that local judicial affairs officials and people from his law firm told his defense attorney Chang Weiping that he had to go back to his hometown immediately."

"He hadn't even finished reviewing the record of proceedings, to ensure it matched up [with what transpired]," he said. "They even sent someone from his local government to escort him back."

Beaten by police

At her last trial, farmer-turned-petitioner Wang Fengyun was beaten up by court police after her trial was adjourned, and was then taken to a nearby hospital, where she remained in a comatose state surrounded by relatives.

Footage supplied by relatives showed Wang motionless, connected by tubes and monitors to hospital equipment, with a doctor performing an electrocardiogram (ECG).

She was later forcibly taken from her hospital bed by police with no medical treatment, her brother told RFA at the time.

Wang, who hails from a farming community in Xilingol League near the border with neighboring Mongolia, was attacked after a social media storm over the public cost of round-the-clock surveillance of her and her family.

The Duolun county government said it had spent U.S. $48,650 on surveillance of the petitioner, who made nine trips to Beijing to complain about a land grab by local government.

Wang and her father Wang Xingshu and husband Zhang Shufeng were detained last September following a petitioning trip to Beijing, all on the same charges.

They were charged after the three of them traveled to Beijing to lodge a complaint against officials in their local government over the loss of their land to a highway development.

According to their lawyers, the government took over their land and built a road on it from 2011-2013, but a land requisition order was issued by the government only on June 16, 2015.

The family's complaint was that the local government had acted illegally.

'Stability maintenance'

The ruling Chinese Communist Party's domestic security budget was last reported in 2013 at U.S. $130 billion, when it exceeded military spending.

Since then, no further figures have been forthcoming for the cost of nationwide operations—known collectively as the "stability maintenance system"—aimed at curbing mass protests, petitions, and other forms of peaceful dissent.

According to official figures, some six million complaints are registered against the government across the country every year, which would result in a nationwide bill of roughly U.S. $146 billion if half of those petitioners incurred costs similar to Wang's.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.