Three witnesses scheduled to testify at the trial of rights defender Zhang Lin (张林) were held by police at different guesthouses and were prevented from going to the trial, according to Zhang’s mother, Mrs. Duan RuiHua (段瑞华). The three witnesses were Li Wenge (李文革), Qian Jin (钱进), and Wang Tingjin (王庭金).
The trial, held today at Bengshan District People’s Court, in Bengbu City, Anhui Province, concluded in the mid-afternoon without a verdict.
Zhang, a veteran democracy activist, was detained in July on the charge of “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place,” in connection with a series of demonstrations, including a 24-hour hunger strike, in April held by some 20 lawyers and rights defenders, including Xu Zhiyong (许志永), in Hefei to protest the physical removal by police of Zhang’s ten-year-old daughter, Zhang Anni (张安妮), from a local school where she had just started attending.
Li Fangping (李方平), one of Zhang’s two lawyers, told Human Rights in China that the defense argued that some “facts” presented by the prosecution were fabricated, including a claim that the Hupo School refused to enroll Zhang Anni because she did not meet enrollment requirements. “The school never issued any such refusal in writing,” said Li.
Li also pointed out that the right to peaceful assembly is protected by the Constitution but that it is essentially negated by the 1989 Law of the People's Republic of China on Assemblies, Processions and Demonstrations, which he calls unconstitutional.
In February, Zhang had attempted to move to Hefei to be near his elder daughter, Zhang Ruli (张儒莉), who was attending university in the city. After Anni was removed from school, the police forced both father and daughter back to Bengbu.
Zhang Lin’s mother, who attended the trial, told HRIC that when Anni returned to her school in Bengbu, she was essentially ostracized. “While our country claims to outsiders that China has human rights, in fact, even children are stripped of their right to go to school. . . . The talk of human rights is all a lie.”
According to a Weibo post by Li Fangping, Zhang Lin said in his final statement at trial that he “hopes that Anni’s incident will awaken the conscience of public servants, including state security officers, so that they would stop this kind of Cultural Revolution-style persecution of family members.”
In a series of Weibo posts today, Li and co-counsel Liu Xiaoyuan (刘晓原) described the atmosphere outside the court house and provided details about the trial. Below is a summary translation by HRIC:
Access to the main road next to the court house was blocked. Police set up a cordon of 100 meters from the court house. The lawyers had to pass through three police check points before reaching the court. There was a large presence of uniformed and plain-clothes policemen.
Aside from Zhang Lin's father and mother, all other persons in the courtroom appeared to have been brought in. Three foreign diplomats [American, Canadian, and German] were not allowed to enter the court and observe the trial.
The morning session ended at 12:25 p.m. In the morning, five persons in the court room were dozing off. Zhang Lin did not appear in court in prisoner uniform and he was not handcuffed during the trial; he sat in a chair.
During lunch recess, the "observers" brought in by the authorities were served free lunches.
The trial ended around 3:08 p.m. The court will render a verdict on a date to be announced. In his final statement, Zhang Lin said he was deeply saddened by the imprisonment of Yao Cheng (姚诚), Li Huaping (李化平), and Zhou Weilin (周维林) due to their support for his daughter and thanked all those who are in Bengbu today to support him. Zhang Lin began to cry when he recalled how Anni was abducted by the police from school. He told the court that he hopes that Anni’s incident will awaken the conscience of public servants, including state security officers, so that they would stop this kind of Cultural Revolution-style persecution of family members.
Zhang Lin is a writer and activist who has served many prison and Reeducation-Through-Labor sentences since the 1980s for his pro-democracy activities and writings. He was released from his latest prison sentence in August 2009.