Eyewitnesses told Human Rights in China (HRIC) that on Friday, October 21, 2011, a group of defense lawyers and supporting colleagues who are working on a high-profile murder case in Beihai, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, were surrounded by dozens of people outside the Beihai Municipal Intermediate People’s Court, where the case is being tried for a third time. One of the lawyers, Xu Tianming (徐天明), was beaten up. The sources said that policemen were present but did not try to stop the attackers, whom the lawyers identified as being connected to the murder victim’s family.
The lawyers represent four of the five defendants accused of murdering a man named Huang Haihuan in November 2009. At the first trial in September 2010, the defense lawyers presented evidence obtained through their own investigation, including eyewitness accounts, which indicated that their clients were not even present when the murder took place. In June 2011, the four lawyers were detained for “witness tampering” (妨害作证罪). Three of them were subsequently released and have kept silent about the case. The fourth, Yang Zaixin (杨在新), was formally charged and is awaiting trial.
The defense lawyers’ detention raised serious concerns in lawyers’ circles in China. Sixteen lawyers from Beijing, Shanghai, Shandong and other places formed a Beihai Lawyers Concern Group. In July, six of them came to Beihai to provide legal assistance to the defendants. Four of them were beaten by unidentified men in the Beihai hotel where they were staying. They attempted to file complaints with the police, but were ignored.
During the current trial which began on October 14, 2011, the defense lawyers argued that the original confessions were obtained through torture and should not be admitted as evidence. The prosecution then withdrew the confessions. Many lawyers view this as a procedural milestone: that evidence was withdrawn from a trial in accordance with a set of rules that the Supreme People’s Court and several other ministries issued in 2010 requiring courts to exclude evidence or confessions obtained through illegal means including torture.
Members of the special lawyers group have been reporting updates to the case online at their websites and microblogs below:
For more information on Yang Zaixin, see:
- “Guangxi Rights Defense Lawyer Yang Zaixin Formally Arrested,” July 5, 2011
- “Guangxi Rights Defense Lawyer Detained for ‘Witness Tampering,’” June 16, 2011
- “Albert Ho and Emily Lau on Democracy under One Country, Two Systems,” China Rights Forum 2010, no.4
- “Chinese Rights Defense Lawyers under All-out Attack by the Authorities,” June 4, 2009