Rights group: Free Chinese human rights lawyer on trial| MENAFN.COM

Monday, 24 January 2022 01:50 GMT

Rights group: Free Chinese human rights lawyer on trial

(MENAFN- The Journal Of Turkish Weekly) A leading human rights group has called for charges to be dropped against a renowned Chinese rights lawyer who went on trial Monday after being detained for 19 months.

Pu Zhiqiang 50 appeared before a Beijing court on charges of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “creating a disturbance” in connection with seven comments posted on social media from July 2011 to May 2014.

If convicted he faces up to eight years in prison.

The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported Monday that security was intensified outside the courthouse where journalists foreign diplomats and supporters of Pu trying to approach the building were pushed away by policemen as well as unidentified persons.

Some of those supporting the lawyer were seen being escorted away by officers while others held up signs saying “Speech freedom” and “Lawyer Pu is innocent” across the road.

Human Rights Watch has called for the immediate release of Pu who suffers from illnesses such as diabetes heart disease and high blood pressure. It said in a statement that a request by Pu’s lawyer for his release on medical grounds had earlier been denied.

“Nothing Pu Zhiqiang has written has violated any law but the authorities’ treatment of him certainly has” the group’s China director said.

“A guilty verdict will be an indictment of the Chinese government its law and its legal system – not of Pu” Sophie Richardson added.

In four of the seven posts Pu had called for reform in Beijing’s policies toward Xinjiang and Tibet and the religious and ethnic in the regions – resulting in charges of “inciting ethnic hatred” for posts that allegedly “provoked ethnic relations… and damaged ethnic unity.”

The other three messages had criticized two government figures and a pro-government author and led to accusations that Pu had “created disturbances” through the use of “insulting language” that “led to adverse social impact.”

Pu who had joined the pro-democracy protests of 1989 as a student and became a lawyer after the Tiananmen Massacre has defended high-profile activists including artist Ai Weiwei who has frequently criticized the ruling Communist Party and was detained for 81 days in 2011.

A former colleague of Pu told the Post that his popularity has led to him being perceived as a threat amid pressure on lawyers and rights advocates.

“He criticized the authorities defended human rights cases and had a media platform. These have posed a challenge to the government’s authority” legal scholar Teng Biao said. “The growth of the rights defense movement has made the authorities feel threatened” he said.

Human Rights Watch has criticized that administration of President Xi Jinping saying his government has “further limited already meager civil and political freedoms” and “carried out a wide-ranging assault on civil society and detained hundreds of activists targeting lawyers in particular.”

The statement denounced the use of the legal system “to punish outspoken individuals and whistleblowers” and the passage of “new laws in the name of state security to further empower the security apparatus to suppress critics perceived to challenge one-party rule.”

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