China human rights activist's lawyers boycott trial

Police officers stand guard outside the court house, blocking roads to the Guangzhou People's Court in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou 12 September 2014. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption There was tight security in place for the trial, with police blocking roads to the court in Guangzhou

A court in China postponed the trial of prominent human rights activist Yang Maodong after he instructed his lawyers to boycott proceedings.

Mr Yang, who is also known by his pen-name Guo Feixiang, is accused of disturbing public order last year.

He has claimed that the trial, being conducted in the southern city of Guangzhou, is illegal and improper.

Chinese authorities have mounted a widespread crackdown on dissenters and critics in recent years.

Mr Yang, 48, and another activist Sun Desheng, 32, had organised a small protest calling for media freedom outside the offices of major newspaper Southern Weekend. Its journalists had complained about government censorship.

Mr Yang released a statement from prison on the eve of the trial saying there had been numerous violations of legal procedure.

He claimed his lawyers had not been allowed copies of evidence against him and he was unable to mount a proper defence.

"I express my strongest protest and condemnation of... this flagrant violation of the rule of law," he said in a statement posted on the website of activist network New Citizens' Movement, which he is a member of.

One of Mr Yang's lawyers told Reuters that the four lawyers representing both Mr Yang and Mr Sun were boycotting the trial because they were not granted at least three days advance notice to prepare.

Mr Yang is known for helping residents of a southern Chinese village organise themselves in 2006 against a local Communist Party official who they accused of illegally selling their land to enrich themselves, according to AFP.

He was later sentenced to five years in prison for "running an illegal business".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Yang is a well-known legal consultant based in Guangzhou
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Yang's wife Zhang Qing testified at a US House Foreign Affairs Committee about his detention last year
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Plainclothes policemen took away a petitioner, seen here raising his hands, who showed up at the courts on Friday

New Citizens' Movement

  • A loose network of activists in China
  • Campaigns for more civil and political rights in China, and educational rights for children
  • Has urged officials to declare their assets to help combat corruption
  • Members have organised mealtime gatherings to discuss social and legal issues

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas says Mr Yang's prosecution is being watched closely as it comes amid the broadest crackdown carried out by China's ruling Communist Party in recent years.

Dozens of activists and government critics have been targeted, many detained, and some prosecuted on broad public order charges, says our correspondent.

Earlier this year, the founder of the New Citizens' Movement, Xu Zhiyong, was jailed for four years earlier for disrupting public order.

Last month, well-known Chinese dissident Gao Zhisheng was released having allegedly suffering physical and psychological abuse in jail.

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