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October 28 Verdict Set for Lawyer Zheng Enchong

October 24, 2003

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that the Shanghai Intermediate People’s Court will hand down its verdict on the trial of lawyer Zheng Enchong on October 28.

Zheng Enchong went on trial on August 28 on charges of “illegally providing state secrets to entities outside of China.” According to sources in China, the court has notified Zheng’s wife, Jiang Meili, that the verdict will be announced at a court session beginning at 2:00 in the afternoon of October 28 in Room 106 of the No. 2 Intermediate Court in Zhongshan North Road.

Zheng had built up a reputation as the most important source of legal advice to Shanghai families affected by redevelopment projects. Following revocation of his law license in 2001, Zheng continued to provide legal advice in such cases, including assisting families suing a company controlled by wealthy developer Zhou Zhengyi. By the time of his arrest on June 6, Zheng Enchong had assisted displaced families in more than 500 cases. Zheng was formally arrested on June 18 on charges of “illegally obtaining state secrets,” and the Shanghai Procuratorate referred Zheng’s case to the courts for formal proceedings in early August.

Observers are not optimistic over Zheng’s chances of acquittal, given the recent official crackdown on petitioners protesting the Shanghai redevelopment schemes. Seven petitioners have over the past few days been formally placed in administrative detention, with accompanying censorious commentary in the official media. With China facing growing protests over similar projects elsewhere in China – including protest suicides in Tiananmen Square – observers believe officials have decided to take a hard line to prevent further escalation of the situation.

“The charges against Zheng Enchong are a farce,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “HRIC has been following Zheng’s case from the outset, and we can say with confidence that none of the information he has made public can be considered state secrets. This trial is nothing less than official use of the legal process to persecute someone who is defending the rights of ordinary people against official corruption and mishandling.”

HRIC calls on the international community to apply pressure to the Chinese government to secure the immediate release of Zheng Enchong.