China dissident Hu Jia to face trial Tuesday


  • World
  • Friday, 14 Mar 2008

MYT 2:31:30 PM

BEIJING (Reuters) - Prominent Chinese human rights campaigner Hu Jia will stand trial on subversion charges next Tuesday, bringing the dissident's case into sharp focus as the government battles critics ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

Prosecutors will tell the First Intermediate Court in Beijing that Hu "incited subversion of state power and the socialist system" on the Internet and in interviews with foreign reporters, his lawyer Li Fangping said.

"The view of his lawyers now is that he is not guilty, and I believe that's how he will argue," he said. Convictions on the charge usually bring a jail sentence of up to five years.

Hu's trial and possible later conviction are likely to be a focus for critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's strict controls on dissent ahead of the Beijing Olympics in August.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice raised his case when in Beijing in February, and other Western government have also said they are concerned.

A 34-year-old Beijing-based advocate for AIDS sufferers, Tibetan autonomy and democratic rights, Hu was detained by police in late December after spending more than 200 days under house arrest in an apartment complex called Bobo Freedom City.

Hu's wife, Zeng Jinyan, and 4-month-old daughter remain under house arrest there, and their telephone is cut off.

Hu kept Internet and telephone links with the outside, including dissidents, disgruntled citizens and foreign journalists, and his dispatches on an overseas Chinese-language Web site, Boxun (http://www.peacehall.com), are at the heart of the prosecution case, lawyer Li said.

"The only means of rule left for the Chinese Communist Party are lies, terror and violence," Boxun quoted Hu as saying last year. "The Party law-and-order authorities have become the country's biggest Mafia."

GAMES CRITICS

Phelim Kine, an Asia researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch, said Chinese authorities appeared anxious to stifle dissent ahead of Beijing's Games, which open on Aug. 8.

"Hu Jia's trial next week only shows that the Chinese government will use any means necessary to silence any critics of human rights abuses related to the preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games," Kine said by telephone.

Chinese officials have shown growing impatience with critics of the Olympics, arguing that they and Western reporters dwell on the country's problems and ignore its remarkable economic and social progress.

Chinese authorities sometimes hold subversion trials against dissidents in closed court. The lawyer Li said Hu's trial would be at least formally open to Chinese citizens, but Hu's wife and fellow activist Zeng may be barred from attending.

"The judge told me that the prosecution has named Zeng Jinyan as a witness and she may be excluded from the trial, but there's been no firm and final decision yet," Li said.

A source close to Hu's family said his wife would try to attend the trial and see her husband for the first time since he was detained.

Hu's trial will come on the day that China's Party-run parliament ends its annual session, and when Premier Wen Jiabao will give his annual news conference, which will be broadcast live.

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