Reporters Without Borders today urged the international community to keep up the pressure on behalf of human rights activist Hu Jia, who is to be tried on 18 March 2008 on a charge of "inciting subversion of state authority". The organisation reiterates its call for his immediate and unconditional release.
“The authorities have scheduled Hu’s trial for 18 March although no guarantees of fairness or transparency have been given,” the press freedom organisation said. “The recent arrest of one of his friends, lawyer Teng Biao, is an especially disturbing sign. Diplomats and journalists must insist on being free to attend the hearings.”
One of Hu’s lawyers, Li Fangping, told the media today that the date for Hu’s trial before the Beijing people’s intermediate court No. 1 was set just one week after the complaint was formally registered with the Beijing prosecutor’s office. The evidence file submitted by the political police reportedly weighed more than 4 kilos.
Hu’s other lawyer, Li Jingsong said he will plead not guilty on behalf of his client, who faces the possibility of a long jail term. The police investigation has reportedly concentrated on articles by Hu that were posted online, especially on the overseas Chinese-run website Boxun, and on some of his statements to the foreign press about the Olympic Games.
Li Fangping said Chinese citizens would be free to attend the trial. But Hu’s wife, Zeng Jinyan, although she will probably be called as a witness, will not be able to attend. She has not seen Hu since his arrest on 27 December.
Human rights lawyer Teng Biao was released by the authorities on 8 March after being held and interrogated in complete secrecy for two days. A close friend and supporter of Hu and his wife, Zeng Jinyan, he was arrested by police on the evening of 6 March and was bundled into an official car with a bag over his dead. "This is all I can tell you for the moment, it would not be appropriate to say any more," he said.
Another lawyer, Li Heping, was attacked by public security officers at he was driving his son to school in Beijing on the morning of 7 March. The police car that had been following him from his home deliberately drove into the back of his car. As a result, he has been suffering back pains. Li, who is under permanent police surveillance, was kidnapped and beaten on 29 September, and was warned against continuing to support Hu Jia.