Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu have put on trial a forced eviction protester and People's Liberation Army (PLA) veteran accused of killing two people when he drove his car into a demolition gang that had gathered to raze his home.
Wei Gang stood trial at the Yangzhou Intermediate People's Court amid heavy security on Friday. His ex-wife and mother were prevented from attending the proceedings, which lasted just two hours behind closed doors, during which Wei was "defended" by a government-appointed lawyer.
"I and Wei Gang's mom weren't allowed to go in, but they agreed to let us see him after the trial, and we're waiting to do that now," Wei's ex-wife Wang Qin told RFA on Friday.
"No members of the public were allowed in; it was an entirely official affair," she said. "The police drove all the local people away, and the doorway is jam-packed with special police, maybe 200-300 of them."
After being allowed a brief meeting with Wei, who parroted a few official phrases, Wang said she felt he had been subjected to extreme duress during the last eight months of detention.
"They eventually allowed us to meet with Wei Gang because we kicked up such a huge fuss," Wang said. "But I have to tell you that I thought he seemed very slow-witted."
"I'm guessing that he was placed under duress while he was in there," she said.
Wang said that Wei did drive his car into the demolition gang, but only after being beaten up by them. Three other people were detained at the time of the incident on suspicion of "provocation."
But she said she believes he wasn't charged with intentional homicide or manslaughter, but "endangering state security."
Wei's lawyer Ding Qiang confirmed that the trial had taken place on Friday.
"Wei Gang's trial just ended this morning, and the verdict and sentencing hasn't yet been passed, nor was the judgment issued yet," Ding told RFA.
"We will have to wait to hear about that from the intermediate court."
An official who answered the phone at the local management committee in Wei's home township of Hangji declined to comment.
"This is a government department. We are now called New Technology Town," the official said. "We don't know about the situation you mention."
Campaign of intimidation
Wei's arrest came amid clashes between local residents and forced eviction and demolition gangs in Hangji township last October, with the authorities waging a campaign of intimidation against anyone trying to speak to the media, local residents said at the time.
The clashes came after a forced demolition team and a team of government-hired thugs visited the home of Wei Gang in Hangji, they said.
Local people had rioted for two days, with local military officers involved in negotiating some kind of settlement with the government, according to unconfirmed reports.
Wei was also among a group of PLA veterans to organize protests over local governments' failure to deliver promised demobilization benefits across China in recent months.
Reported by Wong Siu-san and Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.