Activists Shout For a 'Democratic China' in Guangzhou Subversion Trial

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china-activists-xie-wenfei-wang-mo-undated-photo.jpg Chinese activists Xiewen Fei (L) and Wang Mo (R) are pictured in an undated photo.
(Photo courtesy of activists)

Two Chinese activists who publicly supported last year's pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong stood trial for subversion at a court in the southern province of Guangdong on Thursday, their lawyers said.

Xie Wenfei and Wang Mo appeared at the Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court on Thursday charged with "incitement to subvert state power" in a trial that closed after only one day.

Xie shouted "Abolish the one-party dictatorship, build a democratic China!" repeatedly all the way from the detention center and throughout the hearing, Wang's defense lawyer Tan Chenshou told RFA.

He was carried into the court chamber after refusing to attend the trial in protest at the detention of his lawyer, Xie Yang, Tan said.

Wang, for his part, shouted "Down with the Communist Party!" when he was brought into the court.

"Neither of them pleaded guilty. They said in their final statements that the government should be constituted through regular elections and respond to the demands of the people, and continually prove its legitimacy," Tan said.

The indictment against Wang lists his holding up of a placard in support of the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong, as well as "sensitive" tweets on Twitter.

"They probably think [even his tweets] amount to incitement to overthrow the government," Tan said.

But he rejected the charges against his client.

"This was a symbolic expression of his views; he used his actions to make his thoughts and ideas known, which is protected in law," Tan said, citing the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights covenants, as well as China's own constitution.

"The defense team will be arguing that they are not guilty."

Xie, who is also known as Xie Fengxia, was also detained in October 2014 amid a nationwide roundup of at least 100 mainland Chinese supporters of Occupy Central.

He was wearing a black T-shirt and holding a banner in support of the 79-day pro-democracy movement on the streets of Guangzhou.

'Very brave'

Guangzhou-based rights activist Jia Pin, who was held under criminal detention for a month around the same time, said he is a good friend of both men.

"Xie Wenfei ... is a very brave person, and his rights activism and protest actions have had a big impact," Jia told RFA ahead of the trial. "He has carried out a number of street protests, carrying banners and placards, including those in support of other activists."

"Wang Mo has also shown great courage in his activism; one time in 2012 I remember him handing out leaflets in Nanjing about June 4, 1989," he said.

"Also, he was constantly trying to raise awareness of [the Twitter-like service] Sina Weibo, where his account was always being shut down."

Jia said he believes both Xie, 38, and Wang, 43, are innocent.

"All we did last year was to hold up banners, nothing more," he said. "There was no negative effect on society whatsoever; we didn't block traffic, nor did we hurt anyone."

"It was all totally within the law."

Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement, so named after thousands of protesters used umbrellas to stave off pepper spray and tear gas in clashes with riot police on Sept. 28, 2014, brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the city's streets at its height amid widespread calls for fully democratic elections.

A decree from China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), which activists and pan-democratic politicians dismissed as "fake universal suffrage," would have required any candidates running for chief executive in 2017 to be approved by Beijing.

However, the NPC's reform package was eventually voted down in the city's Legislative Council last June, and the current system of election by a pro-Beijing committee still stands.

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


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