China to Try Tiananmen Protest Veteran After Months of Delay: Lawyer

2016-12-23
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Activist Chen Yunfei leads a protest against alleged pollution at a petrochemical plant in Pengzhou, in Sichuan province, March 6, 2015.
Activist Chen Yunfei leads a protest against alleged pollution at a petrochemical plant in Pengzhou, in Sichuan province, March 6, 2015.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener

Chen Yunfei, a veteran rights activist in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan who was detained after visiting the grave of a Tiananmen massacre victim in 2015, will stand trial on Dec. 26 on public order charges following repeated delays to his case.

Former Tiananmen Square protester Chen, 48, was initially detained on subversion charges on March 25, 2015 near Sichuan's provincial capital, Chengdu, after visiting the grave of Tiananmen massacre victim Wu Guofeng along with a group of fellow activists.

He was to have stood trial in June on charges of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble" after a more serious subversion charge was dropped for lack of evidence.

The trial has now been rescheduled for Monday, Chen's lawyer Ran Tong told RFA.

"I didn't receive the formal notification until I got into the office today," Ran said on Friday. "We have been preparing for some time ... but I will now have to go over the details again in the next couple of days."

Sichuan-based rights activist and author Tan Zuoren said Chen has little in the way of family support, having divorced more than a decade ago, with only an elderly mother left.

He said he is expecting to be placed under surveillance during the trial, but is hoping that Chen won't receive a harsh sentence.

"Usually the sentences for picking quarrels and stirring up troubles aren't more than three years, so that is something," Tan said.

He said Chen had done nothing wrong, however.

"He never did anything bad; only good things, for petitioners, for ordinary people," he said. "The sort of things everybody would approve of."

No reason needed to jail Chen

A rights activist who asked to remain anonymous said Chen is innocent of any crime.

"They should find him not guilty, but we'll see what the court has to say," the activist said. "They don't even need to find a plausible reason [to jail him]."

"We will go and support him, because we all have to look out for each other."

The U.S.-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network, a network of Chinese and international rights groups, said Chen's detention has violated his human rights in a number of ways.

"Chen Yunfei’s detention is clearly an act of government reprisal against his human rights activism, particularly for his efforts to keep the memory of the events of the 1989 pro-democracy movement alive and to hold the Chinese government accountable for their role in the violent suppression of peaceful protesters," CHRD said in a statement on its website.

Chen’s human rights advocacy and environmental activism have made him a frequent target of police harassment, violent assaults, and arbitrary detention, it said.

In 2014, the authorities launched a nationwide crackdown on activists and family members of victims of the 1989 military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square student-led pro-democracy movement in the run-up to the 25th anniversary on June 4.

The government bans public memorials marking the event, and has continued to ignore growing calls in China and from overseas for a reappraisal of the 1989 student protests, which it once styled a "counterrevolutionary rebellion."

The number of people killed when People's Liberation Army tanks and troops entered Beijing on the night of June 3-4, 1989, has never been confirmed.

Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by He Ping for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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