A musician who sang about late Nobel peace laureate and political prisoner Liu Xiaobo stood trial on Friday in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong on public order charges.
Singer-songwriter Xu Lin was detained last year after he penned songs in memory of Liu, who died in police custody of late-stage liver cancer in July 2017.
His wife, who gave only her surname, Wang, said she was prevented from attending the trial, despite having been issued with a pass to the gallery.
“It’s just finished; of course there were big problems with it. It was very unfair to Xu Lin,” Wang said. “Basically it goes the way they say it should go. You don’t get a chance to say very much, and even if you do, they take no notice.”
“I wasn’t able to be there to hear the proceedings, but eventually they put me in a room where I watched a live video feed,” she said. “They told me I couldn’t sit in the gallery because I was a witness, but what’s the point of a witness who isn’t allowed to appear in court?”
She rejected the charges against her husband. “Personally, I think that he’s innocent, but it’s not up to me,” Wang said.
Calls to Xu’s defense lawyers rang unanswered on Friday after the trial. However, one of the lawyers had previously indicated that the defense would be arguing that Xu was not guilty, suggesting that he had declined to make a plea bargain.
Supporter Xu Kun said security was tight during the trial, with the whole area outside the court buildings cordoned off by police.
“When I arrived at the court buildings, I was stopped by a big crowd of police … seven or eight of them at least, who escorted me to Nanshaxiang in an armed police vehicle, so I couldn’t get into the building,” he said.
“They brought me to a public transportation stop; the whole route was lined with police.”
“There was a serious police presence for about two or three kilometers,” Xu Kun said.
Rights activist He Jiawei confirmed Xu Kun’s account.
“The streets were sealed off and there were police every 10 paces or so. There must have been several hundred of them in total,” He said. “They had surrounded the court buildings and weren’t allowing anyone past within a radius of several hundred meters.”
“We were stopped at the intersection; they wouldn’t let us through,” he said. “He asked if I had a pass, and I said no, so he said I couldn’t go any further.”
Harsh sentence expected
Another activist surnamed Lin said he isn’t optimistic about the outcome for his friend.
“My feeling is that it’ll be a harsh sentence, because he has the sort of personality that refuses to capitulate,” he said. “The police tried to give him a chance [at leniency] by having him write a letter of remorse, so that option was available.”
“But Xu Lin refused to play along; he is being persecuted because his songs didn’t chime in with the [ruling] Chinese Communist Party’s main theme tune,” Lin said.
Xu Lin was formally arrested for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” on Nov. 2, 2017. His case was handed over to the state prosecution service in January, which sent it back to police “for further investigation” in April.
He requested not to have a lawyer, following a pattern set by other detained activists who strike a deal to plead “guilty” in return for more lenient treatment, although his associates said he simply had no wish to take up valuable resources.
London-based rights group Amnesty International has previously warned that Xu Lin is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.
Xu was hospitalized while being held in the Nansha Detention Center in Guangdong’s provincial capital Guangzhou, sparking fears that he may have been tortured or mistreated while in a police detention center, possibly in the hope that he would produce a video “confession.”
Liu Xiaobo died weeks after being diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer, and repeated requests from his family to seek medical treatment overseas were ignored.
Police have since detained a number of activists who staged memorials in Liu’s honor, including Zhuo Yuzhen, detained in Guangdong’s riverside town of Jiangmen for taking part in a seashore memorial a month after Liu’s passing.
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