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Petitioners Protest Attempted Prosecution

June 28, 2005

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that Shanghai petitioners have issued an open letter on behalf of fellow petitioner Xu Zhengqing, who may soon be formally indicted on charges of "disturbing social order."

Sources in China told HRIC that the Public Security Bureau (PSB) on April 22 filed a proposed indictment with the procuratorate against Xu Zhengqing in relation to an incident on January 29, when Xu and other petitioners were detained while in Beijing to commemorate deceased former leader Zhao Zhiyang. The petitioners were forced to return by train to Shanghai, and when Xu challenged the escorting Shanghai PSB officers, they reportedly assaulted him, and subsequently held him in detention for 50 hours upon arrival in Shanghai.

According to HRIC’s sources, the procuratorate rejected the PSB’s proposed indictment on May 20, but on June 9 the PSB refiled its proposal with minor modifications, insisting that Xu should be brought to trial. The PSB’s proposed indictment is attached to the Chinese version of this press release. The procuratorate has not yet issued a formal indictment.

Other petitioners who were with Xu Zhengqing at the time of the January 29 incident have issued an open letter protesting Xu’s prosecution. The open letter says that the information provided in the proposed indictment is in variance with the facts, and that it libels Xu Zhengqing. In particular, while the proposed indictment claims that Xu claimed to have been assaulted merely to cause a commotion among the other petitioners, the petitioners say that a number of them personally witnessed Xu Zhengqing being assaulted by PSB officers without provocation.

The petitioners state that Xu Zhengqing has gained considerable experience and legal knowledge as a result of years of petitioning, and has become an important advisor for other petitioners. For that reason, the petitioners say, Xu has been targeted by the authorities in hopes of intimidating and discouraging others. The full text of the open letter, signed by 16 petitioners, is attached to the Chinese version of this press release.

"If the authorities feel obliged to resort to lies in their prosecutions, this only highlights the weakness of their case," said HRIC president Liu Qing. "The procuratorate should take into account the eyewitness testimony of the other petitioners before deciding whether to proceed with an indictment against Xu Zhengqing. Otherwise any further legal proceedings can only result in a travesty of justice."