Chinese Activist Denied Lawyer Amid Widening Clampdown on Dissent

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china-liu-di-nov-2003.jpg A file photo shows Liu Di at her home in Beijing.

Chinese authorities have refused to allow a lawyer to visit outspoken writer Liu Di, who has been detained with several others amid a roundup of critics ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown next month.

The freelance writer, who was detained last week alongside Beijing-based rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang and other activists on suspicion of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," is the only detainee among them who has yet to see a lawyer, her attorney Ma Gangquan told RFA on Monday.

"The detention center has just called to say that the police are sending Liu Di's case for arraignment ... and that I won't be able to visit Liu Di this afternoon," Ma said, referring to the formal reading of charges against a suspect that paves the way for a criminal trial.

"I asked if I could visit tomorrow, but they haven't got back to me yet."

Ma said he would lodge a formal complaint if he was unable to visit Liu on Tuesday. "The law clearly states that the appointed attorney should be able to hold a meeting with their client within 48 hours of submitting the application, which I did last Thursday."

Liu was detained last week at around the same time as the detentions of Pu, social scientist Xu Youyu, pro-democracy activist Hu Shigen, and Beijing Film Academy professor Hao Jian.

However, Xu, Pu, Hu, and Hao have all held meetings with their lawyers, Ma told RFA.

Call for public inquiry

The move came after they attended a seminar along with some 20 human rights lawyers, academics, and family members of victims in Beijing, where they called for a public inquiry into the military crackdown on unarmed civilians at Tiananmen Square by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in June 1989, which ended several weeks of student-led demonstrations and hunger strikes.

Police also detained and questioned Beijing Film Academy professor Cui Weiping, Qinghua University professor Guo Yuhua, and fellow academic Qing Hui, before releasing them, rights groups said.

Meanwhile, authorities in the eastern city of Hangzhou on Friday formally arrested opposition party activist Xu Guang, also a veteran of the 1989 protests, on charges of "incitement to subvert state power," a friend and fellow activist said.

"We don't accept the subversion charges," Chen Shuqing, a fellow member of the banned opposition China Democracy Party (CDP) told RFA on Monday.

"Xu Guang's activism for the China Democracy Party [CPD] ... was aimed at providing checks and balances to the ruling [Chinese Communist Party's] power," said Chen, who has himself served time in jail on the same charges.

"In suppressing the CDP, the Communist Party is posing as the state, which is totally ridiculous."

Medical parole sought

Meanwhile, Pu Zhiqiang has applied for medical parole after being given insufficient medication in a Beijing detention center, his lawyer said.

Pu's lawyer Zhang Sizhi and his personal assistant Qu Zhenhong have written to the Chinese Lawyers' Association, calling on the authorities to release him on medical parole, Zhang said.

"It is the right of people being held under criminal detention to seek medical parole, on the basis that preserving life is the most important principle," the letter said.

"I will be his guarantor during the time he is out on medical parole," Zhang, 87, said. "I am prepared to go to jail if he breaks any laws while he is on parole."

Hao's lawyer Yu Ruochen said her client, who also has health problems, was receiving a good standard of medical care, however. "He was doing OK, and had nurses to take care of him," Yu said.

"He told me to tell everyone thanks for their concern, and that he is confident about how his case will turn out."

Yu told RFA she plans to apply for bail on Hao's behalf, twice if necessary.

Liu Xiaobo to be released?

Meanwhile, a group of relatives of China's highest-ranking officials has been putting subtle pressure on the administration of President Xi Jinping to release jailed Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo on parole, Reuters reported on Sunday.

Liu's continued imprisonment is damaging China's international image, according to the party "princelings," with their criticism suggesting that the party isn't internally united over how to deal with its critics.

Liu, 58, a former literature professor who was closely involved with the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, was jailed for 11 years in 2009 on subversion charges for co-authoring a document calling for an end to one-party rule.

He was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize in a move that infuriated Beijing and soured bilateral ties with Norway.

Liu becomes eligible for parole after serving half his term, and commentators said an early release now looks increasingly likely.

Liu's wife, Liu Xia, has been held under house arrest at the couple's Beijing home since the Nobel Prize was announced, and has been denied permission to seek medical attention overseas.

Li Xiaobing, director of the Western Pacific Institute at the University of Central Oklahoma, said the move has highlighted the difficult issue of what to do about Liu, whom the party fears will win widespread backing from the international community if he is allowed to live freely in China once more.

"The authorities won't make a decision on this lightly," Li said. "Perhaps they will look at policies for dealing with dissidents that have worked in the past."

"For example, they could let him go overseas to receive his Nobel Prize, or to seek medical attention," he said.

Little to gain

U.S.-based veteran dissident Liu Nianchun, who was also active in the 1989 democracy movement, said any early release for Liu Xiaobo could be seen as a conciliatory gesture towards those with government grievances.

"[But] I think it will be very hard for them to do that," he said. "Would [releasing Liu Xiabo] really resolve social conflicts?"

Xi's administration has little to gain from such a gesture, Liu Nianchun said. "As for the princelings, they are themselves divided over whether Liu Xiaobo should be released or not," he said.

But he added: "I think Liu Xiaobo will definitely be released early. But the question is when."

The number of people killed when PLA tanks and troops entered Beijing on the night of June 3-4, 1989 remains a mystery.

Beijing authorities once put the death toll at "nearly 300," but the central government, which labelled the six weeks of pro-democracy protests a "counterrevolutionary uprising," has not issued an official toll or list of names.

The crackdown, which officials said in a news conference at the time was necessary to suppress a "counterrevolutionary rebellion," sparked a wave of international condemnation, and for several years China was treated as a near-pariah as Western governments offered asylum to student leaders fleeing into exile.

The Chinese Red Cross initially reported 2,600 deaths but quickly retracted its statement, while the Tiananmen Mothers group says it has confirmed 186 deaths, though not all at the hands of the army.

Reported by Qiao Long, Yang Jiadai, and Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Grace Kei Lai-see for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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