Zhang Xuezhong (right), lawyer for dissident Zhao Changqing, argues with plain-clothed policemen as he refuses to show them his identification card on his way to court to attend Zhao’s trial in Beijing on Thursday.
HONG KONG: A Beijing court will sentence prominent Chinese rights activist Xu Zhiyong on Sunday in the highest-profile dissident trial since 2009, as authorities target rights defenders nationwide with another activist standing trial in Guangzhou.
Xu’s lawyer, Zhang Qingfang, said he’d been notified in writing by authorities as early as Wednesday when Xu’s trial kicked off, that he would be sentenced on Sunday in one of the most closely-watched dissident cases in years.
“This means that even before the trial, the court had already communicated this and that they had already discussed what the verdict would be and the timing of the sentencing,” Zhang said by telephone.
Zhang said he believed the swift sentencing suggested authorities wanted politically sensitive cases like Xu’s to be closed ahead of the March meeting of China’s rubber stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress.
Xu’s trial is China’s highest-profile dissident proceeding since 2009, when Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo was put on trial for subversion after he helped organise the “Charter 08” petition urging the overthrow of one-party rule. Liu was jailed for 11 years.
The Chinese government has intensified a clampdown against the human rights community nationwide over the past year.
In Guangzhou, supporters of activist Liu Yuandong were barred from attending his trial as dozens of uniformed police guarded and blocked access to the area.