Verdict on 'Tortured' Chinese Election Activist's Case Put Off Amid Protest

Chinese election activist Li Biyun (C) seated on a wheelchair surrounded by supporters outside the court in Foshan city, Guangdong, Sept. 6, 2013.
Photo courtesy of a Li Biyun supporter.

Authorities in China's southern province of Guangdong on Friday postponed handing a verdict to a woman who tried to stand as an independent election candidate amid angry protests by her supporters and allegations that she was tortured in custody.

Foshan-based activist Li Biyun, who was charged in September last year with violating election law, said more than 100 relatives and supporters turned up outside the Shunde District People's Court in Foshan city for the hearing, but were prevented from entering the building.

"It was supposed to have been an open trial, but there were more than 100 villagers, and around a dozen of my family there," Li said on Friday.

"There were even more people who had tried to come in, but who were being stopped [by police] at nearby intersections," she said, adding that an unknown number of people were detained at the scene or "invited to eat" with police.

"They would only issue five passes for the public gallery, so there was a protest. It was unfair of them to limit the passes to just five."

Li said she was unsure what impact the protest might have on the verdict, or whether the authorities were now reconsidering it.

Unable to walk

Li, who is currently in a wheelchair and unable to walk, said in an earlier interview that she was tortured by police in July during a two-week detention on charges of "obstructing official duty."

"They held me for more than 12 hours and didn't give me food, drink or water," she said. "It was cold, and there was a typhoon and a lot of rain, and I was wearing very thin trousers."

"I was freezing cold and hungry and I fainted. They still paid me no attention," Li said. "Both my feet were soaked in water for several days, and now I can't walk."

Speaking ahead of her sentencing on Thursday, Li said the charges were meaningless, because the authorities hadn't stuck to their own rules in running the election in the first place.

"The election itself violated the law," Li said. "This was a closed circle election."

She added: "I don't care what the court decides; I will face up to reality," she said. "The most important thing is that I want justice."

Li, who vowed to appeal if found guilty of the charge, said she would pursue a civil claim for compensation if found not guilty.

"I will pursue those officials responsible, and compensation, according to the law," she said.

Open letter

In October 2011, hundreds of Li's electoral supporters turned out in her home district of Rongli, in Guangdong's Foshan city, to protest her detention.

Rongli residents wrote an open letter to the Shunde electoral committee which garnered around 900 signatures, calling on them to declare the election results null and void because of "illegalities," one of which was the detention of Li.

Her lawyers said at her trial that the district-level NPC elections were organized by the local National People's Congress (NPC), which also appoints all the public prosecutors and local judges.

A request that a judge linked to NPC delegates be withdrawn from the case was denied.

Dozens of political activists across China joined the 2011-2012 campaign to file applications to stand for district-level NPC elections, in spite of official warnings that there is "no such thing" as an independent candidate.

Election clause

Activists tried to use a clause in the election rules which allows anyone with the endorsement of at least 10 constituents to seek nomination.

Many of the candidates, like Li, hailed from the least privileged groups in Chinese society, including those who have been forcibly evicted from their homes, or who have long campaigned for their legal rights.

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

More than two million lawmakers at the county and township levels will be elected during nationwide elections, held every five years, in more than 2,000 counties and 30,000 townships from May 7 through December of next year.

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Xin Yu for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.