Elderly Woman Stands Trial For Firecracker Protest on Tiananmen Square

2016-05-06
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Eviction protester Wang Jindi in police detention after setting off firecrackers in Beijing.
Eviction protester Wang Jindi in police detention after setting off firecrackers in Beijing.
Photo courtesy of Wang Jindi's family

A septuagenarian petitioner who let off firecrackers on Beijing's Tiananmen Square in protest at official corruption in her hometown has been put on trial after seven months in police detention, her relatives and lawyer said.

Wang Jindi, 77, had made repeated trips to protest in Beijing, setting off firecrackers outside the ruling Chinese Communist Party headquarters in Zhongnanhai, on Tiananmen Square, and outside the U.S., French, and British embassies in Beijing, her granddaughter said.

Wang stood trial at the Wuxi People's Court in the eastern province of Jiangsu on April 26 on charges of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," granddaughter He Fengzhu said.

She said security was tight, with several hundred police  and around 100 of Wang's supporters outside the court buildings.

He Fengzhu said she and her maternal grandmother Zhou Jingjuan were allowed to attend the trial.

"When [Zhou] caught sight of Wang, she got very excited and shouted out 'Wang Jindi, you are innocent!'" He said.

"Then she was dragged out by the courtroom police. I couldn't see her after I left. I think she was being held somewhere in the court buildings."

She added: "My paternal grandmother [Wang] went along with my maternal grandmother [Zhou Jingjuan] to protest, and they let off the firecrackers together," He said.

Eviction, corruption


Wang and Zhou, 85, were initially detained together, but Zhou was released after 12 days owing to her advanced age, Wang's daughter-in-law Xu Haifeng told RFA.

The pair had been protesting forced eviction, the demolition of their homes, and alleged corrupt dealings by officials in the Wuxi municipal government.

Zhou's whereabouts were unknown after she was removed from the courtroom for shouting, Xu said.

"A bunch of triad gang members came ... I don't know where they took her after that," said Xu, who was denied permission to attend the trial herself.

"We were standing outside to show support, and there were riot police guarding the courtroom gates."

During Wang's detention, police, judges, and state prosecutors had all put pressure on Wang to blame Xu for sending her on the firecracker protest during her pretrial detention, Xu said.

"They brought this up during interrogations more than a dozen times, putting pressure on my mother-in-law to incriminate me," she said. "These charges were trumped up by the Wuxi government. She is totally innocent."

Persecution by authorities

Wang began to lodge official complaints after the family home was demolished on Sept. 9, 2010, making her the target of ongoing persecution by the local government, Xu said.

Wang's lawyer Chang Weiping said she had pleaded not guilty.

"I don't believe that her actions amounted to a crime," Chang said. "A lot of people set off firecrackers on nonholidays in Beijing. She just broke some regulations, but that only merits an administrative punishment."

Chang said seven months' detention and years of official harassment had taken its toll on Wang.

"She is getting on in years, and her mood is pretty low," Chang said. "You can tell just by looking at her that she's a long-term petitioner, and the authorities target petitioners, saying that they deliberately disrupt public order."

Verdicts and sentences are generally announced within six weeks of a trial in China's judicial system.

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

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