Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that witnesses testifying for the defense in the trial of petitioner Xu Zhengqing on September 13 in Shanghai have refuted evidence produced by the prosecution against Xu on charges of “disturbing public order” under Article 293 of the PRC Criminal Law. Xu has been in custody since January 29, 2005, when he attempted to attend the memorial service for former leader Zhao Ziyang in Beijing.
According to HRIC’s sources in China, Xu is a long-time petitioner who has been subjected to constant persecution by the authorities as a result of his outspoken views. Sources say one officer in the local public security stability unit had declared his intention to “take care of Xu Zhengqing.” HRIC’s sources are concerned that the current prosecution is the culmination of a pattern of abuse.
In its indictment, the Shanghai Putuo District Procuratorate alleges that on January 29, Xu caused disorder on a public bus by failing to pay his fare, and later on the train back to Shanghai by shouting that he had been beaten, causing an “incident” that congested the train corridor for less than an hour. (The indictment is attached to the Chinese version of this press release.) However, according to eyewitnesses and fellow petitioners who testified in court, soon after Xu and other petitioners boarded a public bus in Beijing on January 29, and before they could pay their fares, the driver announced that the bus had broken down and required all passengers to disembark. More than 20 Shanghai petitioners who were on the bus at the time were then detained by police and taken to the Fuyou PSB station west of Zhongnanhai, where they were searched and their belongings confiscated. That same evening, police put the group on a train bound for Shanghai. The witnesses testified that while on the train, they personally saw Xu seriously injured after he was assaulted. Xu identified one of his attackers as He Lianglin, who was one of the PSB officers who took him into custody upon arrival in Shanghai.
After seven months of detention, during which the Shanghai procuratorate sent the case back to the PSB twice for further investigation, the only charges the authorities could bring against Xu were that he caused “serious” disruption of public order by failing to pay a bus fare and creating congestion in the corridor of a train, acts that would not normally subject individuals to prolonged detention. In addition, the prosecution produced no evidence in support of the indictment at trial.
Sources say that more than 300 other petitioners gathered outside of the court building as the trial began, but police forced about 20 of them, including Ma Hengfeng, Wu Xuewei, Ma Yalian and others, into several vehicles and took them to a nearby bowling alley, where they were detained until the trial adjourned that afternoon. The judgment is pending. Some 400 people have now signed a petition calling for the release of Xu Zhengqing.
In light of the fact that Xu himself is a longtime petitioner for residents’ rights who was attempting to exercise his freedom of expression and movement by attending a politically sensitive memorial service, his prosecution raises serious concerns that he has been targeted in order to intimidate and discourage other petitioners seeking justice. HRIC urges the Chinese court to give full and impartial consideration to all the evidence in this politically charged case.