South China Morning Post: Detained Chinese lawyer Pu Zhiqiang insists charges are trumped up as lawyers prepare for pre-trial meeting

South China Morning Post
Verna Yu

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Published : Tuesday, 08 December, 2015, 12:20am
Updated : Tuesday, 08 December, 2015, 12:20am

■ Detained human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, who faces up to eight years in jail for charges his supporters say were punishment for his outspokenness, insisted on his innocence yesterday on the eve of a court meeting that prepares for his trial, his lawyer said.

But lawyer Shang Baojun said he did not know when the trial would take place. Pre-trial meetings can take place anytime from days to months before the actual trial.

Pu, charged with “inciting ethnic hatred” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, insisted that he had done nothing that amounted to those criminal charges, said Shang, who visited him in custody.

According to his indictment, Pu was incriminated for scathing remarks published in about 30 microblog messages dealing with the government’s handling of an ethnic conflict in Kunming in Yunnan province last year and his barbed comments on two officials.

“While he admitted that his remarks were emotionally charged, sarcastic and even rude sometimes, he is willing to apologise. But he doesn’t think he has broken the law,” Shang said.

Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang in 2012.
Photo: Reuters

Pu would be present at the pre-trial meeting at the Beijing No2 Intermediate People’s Court today, which would be attended by judges, prosecution authorities and his defence lawyers to discuss procedural issues, Shang said. He said many of the accusations remained “vague” and lawyers wanted more details about the evidence.

While he admitted that his remarks were emotionally charged, sarcastic and even rude sometimes, he is willing to apologise. But he doesn’t think he has broken the law
Shang Baojun, Pu’s lawyer

Pu, who suffers chronic illnesses including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, has been detained for a year and a half without trial. Shang said Pu was receiving medication but was still suffering from high blood sugar level. He was denied bail in September but his lawyers would re-apply.

Pu’s case has been postponed twice, mostly recently in mid-November, raising questions about why he has been held for so long. Pu, 50, has taken on many causes, including defending artist Ai Weiwei and other prominent rights activists, advocating the scrapping of the labour camp system, and helping Communist Party members who had been tortured during detention in corruption investigations.

Pu was detained by the police in May last year, initially on the charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, after attending an event marking the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

The police later added three more charges, accusing him of “inciting ethnic hatred”, “inciting separatism” and “illegally obtaining personal information”.

In May this year, the Beijing People’s Procuratorate’s second branch dropped the latter two charges.

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