BEIJING (AP) – Two closed-door hearings of prominent Chinese activists on Friday were sharply criticised for violating due process and chilling freedom of expression as authorities tighten oversight of public speech.
Veteran journalist Gao Yu, 70, went on trial in Beijing on accusations of leaking state secrets. Police and plainclothes agents blocked journalists from accessing the Beijing No 3 People’s Intermediate Court, but confirmed proceedings were underway. Across the country, in the tumultuous Xinjiang region, a sealed jailhouse court upheld a separatism conviction and life sentence for Ilham Tohti, a noted scholar from China’s Muslim Uighur minority who frequently criticised the government while advocating ethnic pride and greater economic opportunity. Both proceedings highlight tensions between China’s vision of rule of law, a top priority of president Xi Jinping, and Western notions of judicial fairness.
“If Gao Yu and Ilham Tohti were to receive genuinely fair hearings, the charges against them would be dismissed as blatant political persecution,” William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, said in a statement Thursday.
Gao is one of the best-known intellectuals to have been imprisoned for supporting the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests. She was detained in April on charges of illegally obtaining a Communist Party document and providing it to an overseas website for publication, according to previous official reports.