Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that there will be no public court hearing for the appeal of Shanghai lawyer Zheng Enchong. Observers in China believe the lack of public access is an attempt by Chinese authorities to diffuse growing public support for Zheng, who on October 28 was sentenced to three years in prison on charges of “illegally providing state secrets to entities outside of China.”
According to HRIC’s sources, Zheng Enchong’s defense lawyers, Zhang Sizhi and Guo Guoting, were called to Shanghai’s Supreme People’s Court on December 2, where they were notified that they should submit written defense statements to the court no later than December 4.
Zheng Enchong’s case has raised great concern inside and outside of China, especially as his arrest is widely believed to be related to his efforts on behalf of hundreds of families displaced in Shanghai’s urban redevelopment schemes. Even the China Economic Times, an organ of China’s State Council, has published articles questioning the verdict. But observers inside China believe that the influence of Jiang Zemin, who hails from Shanghai, will prevent any effective redress in grievances over urban redevelopment schemes, and that Zheng Enchong and the public interests he represents will be sacrificed to protect well-connected local officials.
HRIC’s sources say that when Zhang Sizhi and Guo Guoting were called to the court on December 2, they were given a warning over the previous publication of the defense statement and judgment from Zheng Enchong’s trial. The two lawyers were instructed to keep all documents relating to the upcoming appeal confidential. Some observers believe that if documents from the appeal do become public, Zhang and Guo will share their client’s fate.
“Given the widespread public concern, Zheng Enchong’s appeal is a case that really needs to be held in open court,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “There would be no need to fear protest if the public could feel confident that justice is being served. Keeping the appeal process under wraps will only exacerbate the people’s fears that the rich and powerful are being protected at the expense of the underprivileged and those who defend them.”