Authorities Sentence Chen Guangcheng After Taking His Defense Team Into Custody
The Yinan County People's Court in Linyi city, Shandong province, sentenced Chen Guangcheng to four years and three months in prison on August 24 for "intentional destruction of property" (a crime under Article 275 of the Criminal Law) and "gathering people to disturb traffic order" (a crime under Article 291 of the Criminal Law), according to an August 25 Xinhua report (reprinted in the China Daily). Chen Guangcheng is a self-trained legal advocate who drew international news media attention to population planning abuses in Linyi in 2005.
The Yinan County People's Court in Linyi city, Shandong province, sentenced Chen Guangcheng to four years and three months in prison on August 24 for "intentional destruction of property" (a crime under Article 275 of the Criminal Law) and "gathering people to disturb traffic order" (a crime under Article 291 of the Criminal Law), according to an August 25 Xinhua report (reprinted in the China Daily). Chen Guangcheng is a self-trained legal advocate who drew international news media attention to population planning abuses in Linyi in 2005. Local authorities placed Chen under house arrest in September 2005 and arrested Chen on June 21, 2006. Xinhua noted that it received details about the proceedings from a court document, but did not characterize the document as the court's judgment in Chen's case. According to the document, Chen's rights "were completely protected" at trial, and his two lawyers "expressed their views in full." This language echoes similar language in an August 26 China Daily report on the sentencing of New York Times researcher Zhao Yan and an August 31 Xinhua report (reprinted in the China Daily) on the sentencing of Straits Times journalist Ching Cheong, which stated that the defendant's procedural rights had been "fully guaranteed" in each case.
On August 17, local authorities took into custody three of Chen's defense lawyers in relation to allegations of theft, according to an August 19 Washington Post report. Two of the three lawyers were released by noon on August 18 and subsequently submitted a request to delay the trial. The court did not grant their request, but instead announced that Chen's defense team could not attend the trial "due to some unexpected reason." The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported (subscription required) on August 25 that one hour before the trial began, the court appointed two local lawyers to represent Chen. Li Fangping, one of the detained lawyers, told the Washington Post that the two local lawyers did not meet with Chen before the trial. Chen Guangfu, Chen Guangcheng's brother, told the SCMP that during the trial, the two local lawyers made no objections to the procuratorate's case. Despite a general requirement under Article 152 of China's Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) that trial judges open their proceedings to the public, Yuan Weijing, Chen's wife, was barred from attending the trial.
Since June, Linyi authorities have intervened to obstruct legal defense efforts on behalf of Chen. Both Chinese and international law provide a criminal defendant with the right to be represented at trial by defense lawyers of his own choosing. Articles 32 and 33 of the CPL provide that a defendant shall have the right to "entrust persons as his defenders." Furthermore, Article 30 of the Lawyers Law mandates that "[a lawyer's] right to argue or present a defense shall be protected in accordance with law." The actions of Linyi officials disregard the protections guaranteed under Chinese law, and contravene Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which requires that a criminal defendant has had "all the guarantees necessary for his [defense]," and Article 14.3(b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires that he have "adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his [defense] and to communicate with counsel of his own choosing."
Chen's conviction is based on events that transpired on February 5 and March 11, both dates on which unidentified assailants beat Chen's relatives. The Xinhua report indicated that on February 5, at the direction of Yuan Weijing, Chen "instigated [fellow villagers] Chen Guanghe, Chen Guangdong and Chen Gengjiang to damage and smash cars belonging to the Shuanghou Police Station and the town government." On March 11, Chen allegedly "organized a group of people . . . under the excuse of seeking justice for [his cousin] Chen Guangyu," "stood in the middle of the road to stop vehicles and directed the mob . . . to yell out and stop traffic," and "stopped the traffic for three hours and delayed more than 200 vehicles, including an ambulance carrying a pregnant woman to the hospital." Yuan told the SCMP that Chen Guanghe, Chen Guangdong, and Chen Gengjiang received suspended seven-month sentences and were released on August 24. She further reported that the three had been tortured during detention.
The CECC has previously noted several procedural problems with Chen's case. For a brief overview of these and other major events in the case, see below.
- September 6, 2005: Shandong officials abduct Chen in Beijing and return him to his home in Shandong province, where they place him under house arrest.
- October 4, 2005: Local officials beat Chen, as well as Xu Zhiyong, Li Fangping, and Li Subin, three lawyers who attempt to visit him while he is under house arrest.
- October 24, 2005: Local officials beat Chen when he attempts to leave his home to greet two friends.
- February 5, 2006: Several hundred villagers clash with public security officials in Chen's village after officials beat and detain Chen Hua, Chen Guangcheng's relative.
- March 6, 2006: Chen's house arrest exceeds the six-month time limit provided for under Article 58 of the Criminal Procedure Law.
- March 11, 2006: Public security officials detain Chen after preventing him from reporting the beating of his cousin Chen Guangyu earlier that day. They notify Yuan Weijing, Chen's wife, that he has been called in for questioning, but continue to detain Chen without formal charge or trial.
- June 11, 2006: Public security officials notify Yuan that they have placed Chen in criminal detention on charges of "intentional destruction of property" and "gathering people to disturb traffic order." Even though Chen has been in custody since March 11, officials note the date of detention as June 10.
- June 21, 2006: Public security officials formally arrest Chen on the same charges that appear in the detention notice.
- July 18, 2006: Court officials postpone Chen's trial in response to the procuratorate's request for additional time to gather evidence.
- August 17, 2006: Public security officials take into custody Xu Zhiyong, Li Fangping, and Zhang Lihui, in relation to allegations of theft. They release Li and Zhang by noon on August 18, but continue to hold Xu until the conclusion of Chen's trial. All three are members of Chen's legal defense team.
- August 18, 2006: The Yinan County People's Court tries Chen, but closes the trial to Yuan Weijing, the general public, and the media, even though Xinhua reported that Chen's sentence "was passed in a public court session." The court allows only three of Chen's brothers to attend the trial.