A U.S. diplomat, an E.U. diplomat, several foreign journalists, and Chinese protesters were reportedly “manhandled” and “assaulted” by police officers outside the trial of Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang in Beijing on Monday, according to reports by the Guardian.
Dan Biers, deputy political counselor of the U.S. embassy in Beijing, was prevented from reading a statement outside of the courthouse. Diplomats from 11 countries were said to have been “pushed” and “shoved” after congregating to witness the trail against Pu Zhiqiang on “vague” charges resulting from seven “sarcastic” tweets, and his attendance at a 2014 ceremony commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, which Pu reportedly also attended as a student. The diplomats were also refused entry to the courthouse, according to Reuters.
The statement the E.U. diplomat attempted to read was that the blocking of observers from the trial raised “serious questions of consistency with China’s constitutional guarantees of freedom of assembly, opinion and expression.”
“Scores” of both plainclothed and uniformed police officers, along with security personnel, forcibly removed all gathered outside of the courthouse. Diplomats hailing from Britain, Australia, the United States, Canada, Germany, and New Zealand attempted to enter the courtroom but were blocked.
Fifty-year-old Pu Zhiqiang has been called China’s “most influential champion” of free speech and the latest victim of a crackdown on freedom of speech in the country by President Xi Jinping. In the late summer, Zhang Kai, a Christian human rights lawyer, was arrested on similar charges, according to a previous report by the Inquisitr.
U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus called on the country to recognize Pu Zhiqiang and Zhang Kai, as well as other human rights lawyers, Wang Yu and Li Heping, as “partners, not enemies of the government” on International Human Rights Day, observed last Thursday, December 10, as reported by Yahoo!
The Foreign Correspondents Club of China has issued a statement on Twit Longer denouncing the “assaults” by authorities on journalists covering the Pu Zhiqiang trial.
The group stated that they “condemn the harassment of and violence against overseas media and their local staff by Chinese authorities in an apparent effort to block reporting of the trial of lawyer Pu Zhiqiang in Beijing today… The FCCC calls on the Chinese government and police to halt their harassment of and physical intimidation against foreign reporters and to abide by their own rules concerning the international media.”
The Chinese Communist Party reportedly attempted to “scrub” all mention of Pu Zhiqiang and the trial from the Internet, with many social media users on Weibo, which is described as “China’s Twitter,” changing their profile picture to one of the jailed human rights lawyer, in a show of defiance and solidarity.
Pu Zhiqiang’s wife was reportedly allowed into the courtroom, it being the first time she has seen him in almost 19 months. His family reported that he was alert and seemed in good condition, but that he was thin and his hair had turned gray, according to the BBC.
One of Pu Zhiqiang’s attorneys, Shang Baojun, stated that the trial came to an end just after noon and that no judgement had been given. It was reported that Pu did not enter a plea, though he expressed regret for the comments he made on Weibo, and expressed a commitment to be more careful in the future with his rhetoric. It was also reported that Pu stated that he believed that court would deal with him “justly.”
[AP Photo/Andy Wong]