Rights Activist Stands Trial Alongside Family Members in China's Guangdong


2019-10-15
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activist-trial.jpg Activist Gu Guoping, who was detained by authorities in Shanghai after he expressed public support for the anti-extradition movement in Hong Kong, in an undated photo.
Gu Guoping

Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong on Tuesday tried a veteran democracy activist and two of her family members for theft and obstructing officials in the course of their duties.

Li Biyun, her sister Li Caiyun and brother Li Tianqiang stood trial at the Shunde People's Court in Guangdong's Foshan city on Tuesday, Li's niece Liang Qiao'er told RFA.

"Judging from the situation [in court] I am not optimistic," Liang said after the trial, which lasted from 9.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m.

"The three of them were never allowed to finish saying anything ... only the other side were allowed to speak," she said. "There were a lot of plainclothes police, police cars and court security officials outside, checking cars and people coming in."

In 2011, Li joined dozens of political activists across China in a campaign to file applications to stand for election to district-level National People's Congress (NPC) bodies, in spite of official warnings that there is "no such thing" as an independent candidate.

Li's candidacy enjoyed widespread popular support after her earlier advocacy work on behalf of local residents whose farmland had been sold off by local government for development.

Apart from a token group of cosmetic "democratic parties" that never oppose or criticize the ruling party, opposition political parties are banned in China, and those who set them up are frequently handed lengthy jail terms.

Close friend Liang Yiming said she had been under surveillance for 24 hours since Monday, while police detained some of the family's supporters outside the court buildings.

"I have been under personal guard since yesterday afternoon, and I have not been able to go out," Liang Yiming said. "The provincial government has informed leaders at all levels, so the police station in our district starting monitoring me from yesterday afternoon until now."

Official retaliation

Liang Yiming said the case against Li Biyun and her family was a form of official retaliation against Li Biyun, who has been a vocal critic of the local government.

The family were detained on the day they had planned to lodge an official complaint about the appropriation of local land by local officials, she said.

An official who answered the phone at the Shunde district police department declined to comment when contacted by RFA on Tuesday.

"We can't give any interviews over the phone," the official said.

Meanwhile, authorities in Shanghai have detained a rights activist after he expressed public support for the anti-extradition movement in Hong Kong, which has gripped the city in a series of mass rallies, marches, protests and clashes with riot police since early June, amid growing anger at the erosion of traditional freedoms.

Activist Gu Guoping was detained for several weeks after he gave interviews to two overseas-based media organizations, the Epoch Times and New Tang Dynasty Television.

"They asked me when they interviewed me," Gu told RFA after his release. "I told them I had no comment, or that I had forgotten because of my advanced age."

"The police were just taking the opportunity to persecute me because of the interviews I gave to foreign media," he said. "They locked up an retired, innocent and ordinary old man in a detention center just for expressing his opinions."

Gu said he still supports the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, in spite of his ordeal.

"There is nothing unconstitutional about wanting fully democratic elections," Gu said. "More than a million people came out to defend their rights: are several million people all wrong?"

Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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