Trial of China human rights lawyer delayed, say supporters
Xie Yang was arrested in the huge crackdown on civil rights activists on the mainland in the summer of 2015
A Chinese court postponed the trial of a prominent human rights lawyer on Tuesday, his supporters said, in a case that has sparked international concern after allegations he was tortured.
Xie Yang, who had worked on numerous cases considered politically sensitive by the ruling Communist Party, was among hundreds of legal staff and activists detained in a crackdown in the summer of 2015.
Dozens of supporters and several diplomats gathered at the court in the central city of Changsha for the start of Xie’s trial, believed to be on charges of “inciting subversion of state power”, but were told the case would not be heard on Tuesday.
Last-minute delays in sensitive trials are not uncommon even though Chinese law requires courts to give a defendant’s family and lawyers three days notice of any changes, said Amnesty International China researcher Patrick Poon. A new date was not provided.
Xie, who was arrested in the so-called “709 crackdown”, claims police have used “sleep deprivation, long interrogations, beatings, death threats, humiliations” on him and the European Union has voiced concern over his case.
Eleven countries, including Canada, Australia and Switzerland, also cited his case in a letter to Beijing criticising China’s detention practices.
“We are following this case very closely and our human rights counsellor is in Changsha today,”a Beijing-based EU spokesman said.
Xie is being represented by a court designated advocate after he was denied the right to pick his own defence, his former attorney Chen Jiangang said.
The new lawyer, He Xiaodian, could not be reached for comment.
Chen said He had contacted Xie’s family on Monday night to advise them not to go to the courtroom. “But they did not get any clear information saying the trial date was different,” he said.
Court officials had confirmed to Xie’s wife, Chen Guiqiu, that the trial would start on Tuesday, she said in a statement last week.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has overseen a tightening of controls on civil society since assuming power in 2012, closing avenues for legal activism that had opened up in recent years.
While the government initially targeted political activists and human rights campaigners, it has increasingly turned its attention to the legal professionals who represent them.
Among Xie’s clients were Chinese activists who supported Hong Kong democracy.
He was indicted in December on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” and “disrupting court order”, according to the US-based charity Chinese Human Rights Defenders.