Xuzhou, Jiangsu – Renowned Beijing-based human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng, who filed a case in defense of one of his fellow attorneys during a nationwide crackdown on their profession, was tried suddenly in a court in China’s coastal Jiangsu province on May 9.
On the morning of last Thursday, police brought Yu’s brother to the Xuzhou Municipal Intermediate Court and notified him that his brother’s trial would start at 9:00 a.m. Due to authoritarian pressure, the brother said he did not feel comfortable releasing details about the hearing.
The trial finished the same day, but a verdict has yet to be announced.
However, Yu’s lawyers, Chang Poyang and Xie Yang, were not notified of when the trial would be held. According to Chinese laws and regulations, courts must announce trial dates on their website and post hardcopies in court three days prior to the hearing. Similarly, the family of the defendant must be given a notice at least three days before the trial. The government did not meet either of these requirements, indicating Chinese officials may have wanted to try Yu in secret.
Chang worried his client might have been forced to confess to his crime, a tactic commonly used by the Chinese Communist Party in order to procure wrongful convictions.
At the hearing, Yu was represented by a state-assigned attorney.
The trial has drawn much international attention among human rights offices. Yu’s wife, Xu Yan, met with Swiss officials on the morning of May 13 and then with authorities from the United Kingdom, the European Union, Germany, the United States, and France that afternoon. Human rights organizations, including the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group and the Taiwan Support China Human Rights Lawyers Network, openly condemned the trial and demanded that it be held again. ChinaAid also calls on the government to give Yu a fair trial and protect his right to the lawyers hired by his family.
Yu underwent arrest on Jan. 19, 2018, when he was dropping his child off at school. The following day, Beijing police placed him under criminal detention on an endangering public affairs charge. On Jan. 27, he was charged with “inciting subversion of state power,” and on April 19, 2018, the Xuzhou Municipal Procuratorate formalized his arrest on these two charges. The procuratorate delayed his case four times and returned it to investigators for additional evidence twice.
When China launched a massive sweep of human rights lawyers in July 2015, Yu filed the case of prominent human rights attorney Wang Quanzhang, who remains jailed.