Human rights in China

Brothers of Chinese activist barred from trial and forced to return home

Hu Shuigen went to Tianjin to see Hu Shigen face the court, but ended up being escorted back to Jiangxi by police

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 August, 2016, 11:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 August, 2016, 8:49am

Two younger brothers of veteran activist Hu Shigen were barred from attending his hearing and escorted back to their hometown by authorities the day before the trial, according to one of the brothers.

When the grey-haired activist faced a Tianjin court and pleaded guilty to charges of subverting state power on Wednesday morning, his brother Hu Shuigen was hundreds of kilometres away in his home province of Jiangxi, with no idea the hearing was taking place.

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“We did not expect at all the trial would be opened today. I was at work this morning and suddenly fainted at around ten o’clock. That’s when I had the hunch that the hearing must be on,” Hu Shuigen said over the phone.

He only learned about his brother’s seven-and-a-half-year prison sentence on the internet, after his colleagues sent him home to rest.

Hu Shigen is one of the four rights advocates to face trial in Tianjin this week. They were all detained during a massive crackdown last July, which resulted in the detention or interrogation of some 300 rights lawyers and activists, among whom about two dozen were formally arrested.

“Now it is no longer important to say if the trial was fair or if the verdict was too harsh. He has pleaded guilty and pledged no appeal, and we have to accept that. What we worry the most about is his health,” he said.

Like the relatives of the other defendants facing trials this week, Hu Shuigen was excluded from the courtroom.

He said he had travelled to Tianjin with another younger brother in hopes of seeing the trial. They had not been able to see their older brother for over a year, after he was detained last July.

The government also refused to recognise the family-appointed defence lawyer, appointing its own candidate instead.

The younger brothers were sent back to Nanchang in Jiangxi on Tuesday, flanked by six security officers.

Local authorities welcomed Hu Shuigen with the news that from now on, he would need a green light from “relevant departments” to leave the city again.

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Family members of activists Zhai Yanmin and Gou Hongguo had similar problems. Zhai was jailed for three years by the same court on Tuesday, and Guo will stand trial on Thursday or Friday.

Zhai’s wife Liu Ermin said she was twice taken into police stations for long hours of questioning and tailed by officers after she travelled from Beijing to Tianjin in a failed attempt to learn about her husband’s trial.

“They told me it was unnecessary for me to know when the trial would open, that it was not my concern,” Liu said.

She was finally allowed to go home after midnight on Tuesday, but two security officers had been standing guard outside her apartment building since Tuesday morning.

“I can go out to do grocery shopping but can’t go anywhere far. They follow me everywhere like you would follow a dog,” she said.

Guo’s wife was also sent back to her hometown, in Shanxi province, on Tuesday. She was not told when her husband would go on trial, according to Liu.

Last night, the Tianjin court posted a handwritten letter attributed to lawyer Zhou Shifeng saying it was his wish that his family not attend his trial today.