Villagers flock to rare trial of top policeman

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 July, 2012, 12:00am


More than 60 elderly Guangzhou villagers flocked to a district court yesterday to see how a fellow villager would fare in a trial involving the city's police chief, who is charged with violating administrative procedures in the detention of another villager.

Police chief Xie Xiaodan supported a decision by the police in the Guangdong provincial capital's Baiyun district, which oversees Jianggao village, to detain Huang Minpeng for 10 days from March 13 after he was found submitting petitioning materials to the US consulate in Guangzhou.

It is rare for civilians to be able to take officials to court on the mainland, and even rarer for a court to hear such a case against a senior police officer.

Xie did not attend the hearing yesterday, instead sending a police officer to represent him in court.

Given the high turnout of villagers, the hearing was delayed for more than an hour, as the tiny courtroom originally assigned for the trial could hold only about a dozen people. Presiding judge Zhong Tao was stunned by the number of farmers and supporters in attendance, which required him to personally find a bigger courtroom at the last minute.

The hearing finally got under way at around 3.30pm, but it was repeatedly interrupted, as the judge had to keep stopping to explain the court procedures in Cantonese to the villagers, who had a limited understanding of Putonghua. Huang was represented by Lin Guang, a former civil servant without legal training.

After about 30 minutes, the judge called for a short break in proceedings. As Huang and his fellow villagers did not seem to grasp the legal technicalities of the proceedings, the judge called both sides into a small private chamber and said Huang may have brought charges against the wrong person, since he had not been detained at the order of the Guangzhou Public Security Bureau but upon the order of Baiyun district police.

'Let me put it this way,' Zhong said. 'If someone's son hit you, there is no point in you beating up the father. You need to figure out who you are really after in this case.'

He adjourned the hearing for a week to give Huang and his representative time to figure out if they should be targeting the Baiyun police.