Prominent rights advocate and legal scholar Xu Zhiyong plans to remain silent at his trial on Wednesday in protest over what he sees as unfair treatment by the court, his lawyer said yesterday.
Xu, who launched the New Citizen movement in 2012 to push for social equality and the rule of law, was detained in July and formally arrested a month later on the charge of "assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place". Prosecutors indicted him last month.
His lawyer, Zhang Qingfang , said judges at the pre-trial meeting yesterday denied Xu's request that witnesses and the co-defendants named in his case be allowed to testify in court.
Zhang also said court officials ignored that Xu and a businessman backing him, Wang Gongquan, were to be tried separately from their co-defendants at the Beijing No1 Intermediate People's Court.
His co-defendants would be handled by the lower Haidian district court.
Zhang said he feared the lower court would not arrive at an independent judgment. He also cited regulations that defendants in a single case should be handled by the same court.
"Under these circumstances, there is no way his trial can be conducted fairly," Zhang said. "Xu Zhiyong insisted that he should be given a fair trial. If the procedures are illegal then ... he would stay silent."
Police accuse Xu of masterminding at least five protests last year to demand that government officials disclose their assets, and at least two others seeking equal education rights for migrant children in Beijing.
A staff member at the Beijing court refused to comment.
Zhang maintained Xu's innocence: Xu knew about only one of the five protests pushing for transparency in officials' wealth, and had always told his supporters to avoid conflict with police or disturbing traffic or public order.
Zhang said he told Xu that his wife gave birth to a baby girl on Monday night, and that Xu was moved to tears. If convicted, he faces up to five years in jail.
"He wants to be with his wife and baby ... [but] he's willing to pay a price for his beliefs," Zhang said.