Date created : 26/12/2018 - 05:37
Tianjin (China) (AFP)
Two rights activists were taken away Wednesday after protesting outside the tightly-guarded courthouse where the trial of a prominent human rights lawyer is set to begin, witnesses saw.
Wang Quanzhang, 42, who defended political activists and victims of land seizures, disappeared in a 2015 sweep aimed at courtroom critics of Communist authorities known as the "709" crackdown.
Charged in January 2016 with alleged "subversion of state power", Wang had been in legal limbo -- detained without a trial date -- until Monday, when his government-appointed lawyer finally contacted his wife with his court date.
Just before 10:00am (0200 GMT), AFP journalists witnessed a man getting arrested after he protested outside the court in Tianjin where Wang's trial is believed to be underway.
"A refined scholar has been detained by you lot this way that even members of the public can't see him," shouted Yang Chunlin, a rights activist from Heilongjiang.
"This is Fascist rule, it's absurd.
"The Chinese people need to stop living in fear, we need to stand up to oppression and be brave," he added.
Shortly after, several plainclothes officers set on Yang and bundled him into a waiting black SUV.
Another man holding up a sign that said "release (the) innocent Wang Quanzhang" was taken away by local authorities about 8:15am, a witness told AFP.
Amnesty International researcher Patrick Poon identified the man as Zhang Zhecheng, a rights activist from Hangzhou in east China.
The court was under virtual lockdown with media and members of the public kept away from the building, separated by a busy four-lane road.
An AFP journalist at the scene counted at least 50 security personnel, both uniformed and plainclothes, who told journalists that the trial was not open to the public.
Wang's wife and a supporter were also stopped from attending the trial.
In an account posted on Twitter early Wednesday morning, Wang Qiaoling detailed how she and Wang Quanzhang's wife, Li Wenzu, were barred from leaving a Beijing housing compound by groups of police officers for over an hour.
"By the time I looked at my phone again, it was already 6:44am (2244 GMT), there was definitely no way to reach Tianjin," Wang Qiaoling wrote.
"Both of us were frozen stiff, we could only go home."
Li was also on Tuesday placed under de facto house arrest with "more than 20" security personnel outside her apartment.
Wang Qiaoling and Li were among four women who last week shaved their heads to protest Wang Quanzhang's indefinite detention.
Doriane Lau, China researcher at Amnesty International, earlier this week raised questions about the timing of the trial on December 26, saying: "We think this is deliberate because obviously a big part of the world will be having a holiday and will not be able to respond."