Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that plaintiffs in a court case alleging corruption in an urban clearance were barred from attending the trial, only to have their case adjourned due to their absence.
According to HRIC’s sources in China, the Shanghai Luwan District Court had set the afternoon of October 20 for the case brought by Cao Lanhua, Zhang Yunlong and Zhang Yunfeng against Shanghai Yangtze Jiayuan Property Development Co. Ltd. The plaintiffs allege that the company illegally destroyed their homes in Luwan District’s Dapu Road on August 8, 2003.
Cao and the other plaintiffs turned up at the court on October 20 accompanied by five legal representatives, including Chen Xiaoming and Fu Yuxia. According to HRIC’s sources, the presiding judge, Chao Jionghe, accompanied by the court’s chief justice and two court police officers, barred the plaintiffs and their legal representatives from entering the courtroom. The plaintiffs were told that only one of them could attend the trial. Cao Lanhua and the others adamantly insisted that all of the plaintiffs and their legal representatives had a right to be present at the trial. While they were arguing, the court announced that the trial was adjourned because the plaintiffs had not appeared.
The plaintiffs demanded that the chief justice come out and explain to them why they and their legal representatives should not be allowed into the court, and why the trial had been adjourned when court officials knew the plaintiffs were in fact outside. Sources say that more than a hundred other people who had similarly lost their homes in urban redevelopment projects had come to the courthouse to observe the proceedings, and many of them voiced their support for Cao Lanhua and the others, refusing to leave the court premises. Finally around 2 a.m. police dragged about Cao and around 20 supporters out of the court building. The next day Zhang Yunlong and others returned to the courthouse demanding to talk with court officials, only to meet with threats from the police.
“The barring of all concerned plaintiffs from their own trial strongly suggests inappropriate handling of this case,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “International human rights law provides that all people are entitled to an open and fair trial before an independent tribunal. HRIC calls on the Luwan District Court to demonstrate its impartial and just handling of this case in order to prevent undermining public confidence in China’s judicial system.”