BEIJING (AP) – A leading Chinese rights activist who organised rallies for media freedom pleaded not guilty to charges of disturbing public order in an all-night trial in which the judge rejected his requests for food, a lawyer said.
The case against Yang Maodong, 48, comes amid a broadening crackdown on dissent. In January, a Beijing court sentenced legal activist Xu Zhiyong to four years in prison for leading a loosely organised civil movement. Several of his followers also were imprisoned.
New York-based Human Rights Watch called on authorities to drop the charges against Yang, better known by his penname Guo Feixiong, and Sun Desheng, who was arrested for urging the Chinese government to grant more rights to its people and to disclose officials’ assets.
Zhang Lei, lawyer for Yang, said on his microblog that the trials Friday against Yang and Sun at Tianhe District Court got off to a tense start when the court several times cut off arguments by the defense. The hearing ended only at 2.50am Saturday with the judge granting a recess after Yang nearly fainted from hunger. The court had repeatedly rejected earlier requests for food, Sun’s lawyer Chen Jinxue said.
The lawyers said both Yang and Sun had been mistreated in detention. Yang was denied any outdoor break for 469 days, and Sun had his ankles and wrists shackled for a week before the trial, Zhang said.
A court employee declined to confirm the trials, but he said a “special case” was taking place, without further elaboration.