Today, the Guangzhou Municipal Tianhe District People’s Court opened the trial of rights activist Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄), also known as Yang Maodong (杨茂东), and Sun Desheng (孙德胜), but did not proceed as lawyers for the defendants did not appear in court in protest of what they alleged were serious procedural violations. It is unclear when the trial will resume.
Guo, a longtime activist and a moderate voice in the rights defense community, is accused of organizing street actions in January 2013 outside the gate of the Guangzhou-based publication Southern Weekly to support its staff’s protest against editorial interference by the Communist Party. Guo and Sun are accused of planning “raising signs in the street” in eight cities in 2013, including Wuhan, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. They face charges of “gathering crowds to disrupt order in public places.”
On September 11, one day before the trial, Guo’s two lawyers, Chen Guangwu (陈光武) and Zhang Xuezhong (张雪忠) issued a statement listing the alleged violations—which include the court’s refusal to let them copy and review core evidence stored on eight CDs—that, they argued, have made it impossible for them to conduct an effective defense. In this situation, they said in the statement, they would not go to the trial the next day but would continue to request access to the case materials. Guo himself also issued his own statement of protest on the same day.
In a message posted online on September 12, the scheduled trial date, lawyer Zhang Xuezhong said that he received a call from a clerk at the court at around 9:30 a.m. warning him of the legal responsibilities for not showing up for Guo's trial, and that he replied by saying he’d gladly bear all the legal responsibilities as instructed.
Guo’s other lawyer, Chen Guangwu, told HRIC that the court already notified him that he and his co-counsel Zhang will be punished by their respective local Bureaus of Justice. Chen believes that punishment will be similar to that for Cheng Hai (程海), another rights defense lawyer whose license to practice was recently suspended for one year.
Background on Guo Feixiong (Yang Maodong)
Guo Feixiong is a writer, activist, and self-taught legal defender, who has written a number of articles and published books on China’s history, leadership, and social issues. He was previously sentenced to five years in prison for supporting the well-known rights defense lawyer Gao Zhisheng and suffered ongoing harassment by the authorities.
Guo was formally arrested in September 2006 on the charge of “illegal business activity” (非法经营) in connection with his 2001 publication of Shenyang Political Earthquake (沈阳政坛地震), a book he edited that discussed a political scandal in Shenyang, Liaoning province. He was convicted in November 2007, sentenced to five years in prison, and fined 40,000 yuan.
After his release in September 2011, Guo remained an active member of the rights defense community. In 2012, he participated in the Wukan village elections; investigations into the suspicious death of rights defender Li Wangyang (李旺阳); and a signature campaign to support Liu Ping (刘萍), an independent candidate in local elections in Xinyu, Jiangxi Province, who was beaten by police when she tried to submit an application for a permit to march.