Tai Lake activist set to face trial, says wife

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 August, 2007, 12:00am

Environmental activist Wu Lihong will go on trial on Friday after an earlier hearing was postponed, his wife said yesterday.

Police have charged Wu, who for years sought to bring attention to pollution in Tai Lake, with blackmail of local officials. His wife, Xu Jiehua, said the arrest of her husband was aimed at stopping his activism. 'My husband ought to be judged to be innocent,' she said.

She said police had tailed her and placed her house under surveillance for the past two months. She has previously claimed her husband was tortured while in detention, human rights groups say.

Wu was detained in April but a court appearance scheduled for June was cancelled. Ms Xu said the Yixing People's Court had informed her of the new trial date through her lawyer but she was not sure how long the session would last. Court officials declined to comment yesterday.

Ironically, after Wu was detained a portion of Tai Lake suffered a massive algal bloom, leaving residents in Wuxi without safe drinking water. The lake, the mainland's third-largest freshwater lake, is located in Jiangsu province .

The government eventually sacked or punished five Jiangsu officials over the catastrophe.

Wu has spent the last 16 years gathering evidence of pollution in Tai Lake from his base in Yixing . He previously garnered government and media honours for his efforts.

Mainland leaders have paid only lip service to cleaning up environmental pollution, made worse by the country's rapid economic growth.

However, calls for environmental protection are often thwarted by local protectionism and corruption, which allows polluting factories to remain open.

The central government also wants the initiative for change to come from its own environmental protection agency, which critics consider a toothless body, and largely views individual activists and non-government organisations as potential threats to social stability.