Trial of China rights lawyer lasts 3 hours

  • 14/12/2015
Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang (Reuters)
Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang (Reuters)

By Sui-Lee Wee

The trial of one of China's most high profile human rights lawyers, on charges of inciting ethnic hatred and provoking trouble, has lasted just three hours.

Police blocked diplomats, foreign reporters and protesters from the Beijing court on Monday (local time).

Pu Zhiqiang, who has spent nearly 19 months in detention, faces up to eight years in prison if convicted, according to one of his lawyers, Shang Baojun.

As many as 11 diplomats from countries including the United States, Germany and France congregated near the courthouse seeking to observe the trial.

They were refused admittance by the police.

Dan Biers, deputy political counsellor of the US embassy in Beijing, called for Pu's release and criticised the "vague charges" that have been handed down against Pu.

Police tried to prevent Biers from reading out a statement near the courthouse, pushing him and foreign reporters out of the way.

Dozens of police and plain clothes security surrounded the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court, where they blocked foreign journalists attempting to report on the trial.

China has charged many rights activists with "picking quarrels and provoking trouble", saying it is a country with rule of law and dismissing any international criticism on its rights record.

The main accusations against Pu revolve around seven microblog posts on his online accounts, his lawyers say.

The posts had criticised China's ethnic policy in the troubled western region of Xinjiang and denounced several officials.

Pu's trial lasted a little over three hours, Mo Shaoping, another one of his lawyers, told Reuters.

"He admitted the seven microblogs were written by him, there was no issue with it, this is a fact," Mo said, recounting what Pu said in court.

"Secondly, he said that if these microblog posts had caused injury to other people, he apologises for it. Thirdly, he had no intention to incite ethnic hatred or pick quarrels and provoke trouble."

Mo said the court did not ask Pu specifically whether he was pleading guilty.

Pu's case will be seen by rights groups and the West as a measure of what they say is the most severe clampdown on human rights in two decades in China.

Pu has represented many well-known dissidents, including artist Ai Weiwei and activists of the "New Citizens' Movement", a group that has called on Chinese leaders to make their wealth public.