Procuratorate Indicts Feng Bingxian and Three Other Shaanxi Oil Investors
The local procuratorate in Jingbian county, Shaanxi province, has indicted Feng Bingxian and three other oil investors for "gathering a crowd to disturb public order," a crime under Article 291 (amended in December 2001) of China's Criminal Law, according to an October 27 report by the Voice of America (VOA).
The local procuratorate in Jingbian county, Shaanxi province, has indicted Feng Bingxian and three other oil investors for "gathering a crowd to disturb public order," a crime under Article 291 (amended in December 2001) of China's Criminal Law, according to an October 27 report by the Voice of America (VOA). Local officials released Feng Xiaoyuan, Kong Yuming, and Wang Shijun on bail, but have kept Feng Bingxian in detention. Feng's son formally retained Beijing lawyer Mo Shaoping to assist in the criminal defense. According to the VOA report, Mo will travel to Jingbian during the week of October 31 to visit his client, formalize his representation, access the procuratorate's evidence files, and push for a trial date.
The VOA report traces the Shaanxi oil case back to 2003, when officials in Yulin and Yanan cities illegally seized more than 5,000 oil fields after encouraging private investment in the properties. According to a July 11 article in China Reform magazine, posted on the Xinhua Web site, the seizures affected over 60,000 private investors and properties with an estimated worth of 7 billion renminbi. Feng served as a representative on behalf of the investors during their attempts to petition provincial and municipal government authorities. The indictment against Feng and the three others focuses on two meetings that they arranged with government officials, according to the VOA. Five of the nine representatives were taken into custody days after a May 10 meeting with officials. Local officials subsequently lured Feng out of hiding with a forged e-mail and detained him on July 26, according to an August 19 article in the Washington Post. The procuratorate charges that the presence of too many representatives at these meetings resulted in traffic congestion, disturbance of social order, and interference with the work of the government.
Public security officials also detained Beijing lawyer Zhu Jiuhu, who represented the investors, on May 25. Zhu's case drew outrage from the legal community and prompted a group of prominent Chinese lawyers to publish an open letter calling for investigation of his detention. Authorities released Zhu on bail in September and have not yet issued an indictment in his case.
The indictment of Feng Bingxian comes at a time when the Chinese government has widely publicized its efforts to increase legal protection for property rights. In March 2004, the National People's Congress (NPC) passed a series of constitutional amendments expanding property rights protection. The NPC is currently deliberating over public comments on a draft Property Law. The VOA report noted concern from the Chinese legal community that Feng's case pointed to unchecked abuses by local government officials and continuing restrictions on the ability of citizens to exercise their lawful property rights.