Defiant note struck with final speech
By STEPHEN HUTCHEON in Shenzhen
HANDCUFFED and flanked by two armed guards, Peng was led into the Shenzhen Intermediate People's Court yesterday morning clearly defiant and seemingly determined to go down fighting.
The Australian businessman nodded and smiled at his mother sitting on the more crowded side of the half-empty court room. He was seated in the dock facing Chief Judge Long Guangrong and his handcuffs were removed.
Although supposedly stricken with hepatitis and dental problems, at no stage during yesterday's 90-minute appearance did Peng show any signs of the physical pain or mental anguish he was said to be suffering as a result of his two-year incarceration.
Dressed in an open-neck blue business shirt and wearing khaki-coloured trousers, he looked healthy, if slightly overweight.
When he was seated, the clerk stood and read out the rules of court decorum: no photography, no tape recording, no walking around, no talking aloud and no applause.
Chief Judge Long proceeded to restate the charges Peng faced and asked if the defendant had anything to say before he delivered the verdict.
Peng elected to speak and began a 25-minute address that was interrupted on several occasions by the bench asking him to get on with it.
Referring to a set of notes, Peng spoke clearly, quickly and at times defiantly, jabbing his finger now and then to emphasise a point.
He said that he was innocent of the charges of embezzlement and misappropriation laid against him and that the prosecution had presented flimsy evidence and used unreliable witnesses.
Furthermore, he claimed, there was no reason for him to defraud a company of which he was both a director and creditor. Indeed, he had invested several million yuan of his own money in it in 1990.
After Peng finished, the judge called a half-hour recess. The court reconvened at 10.20 am for the verdict.
Ten minutes later, it was all over. A still-smiling Peng was handcuffed and led back to the waiting van. He was driven through gates, past the large crowd of journalists and onlookers gathered outside, and on to prison to begin his 18-year sentence.