Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that Shanghai lawyer Zheng Enchong was tried behind closed doors on August 28 on charges of “illegally providing state secrets to entities outside of China.”
More than three hundred people to whom Zheng Enchong had been providing legal advice gathered to protest outside of the court. The court called in some 200 police officers to control the crowd, and more than 100 protesters, including Chen Enjuan, were arrested and taken away in police vehicles. Their circumstances remained unknown at press time.
Sources in China say Zheng’s trial began at 1:30 p.m. at the Shanghai Second Intermediate People’s Court in Zhongshan North Road. Zheng’s wife, Jiang Meili, and other observers were barred from the court on the grounds that the case involved state secrets. However, sources say the proceedings were monitored by representatives of the Shanghai municipal government. Represented in court by lawyers Zhang Sizhi and Guo Guoting, Zheng pleaded not guilty in the trial, which lasted for more than five hours and reportedly involved vigorous legal arguments. The court announced that a verdict would be rendered in 10 days.
Before the trial Guo Guoting posted an article on a law-related Web site stating, “The great judges of Shanghai should be able to render a just and objective verdict in this case; there should not be any misrepresentations of the truth.” However, one informed source expressed little optimism over the outcome in spite of a reportedly strong defense by Zheng’s counsel.
Zheng Enchong was originally detained on June 6 after assisting displaced families in more than 500 cases relating to Shanghai’s urban redevelopment projects. Following revocation of his law license in 2001, Zheng continued to provide legal advice in such cases, including assisting families suing a company controlled by wealthy developer Zhou Zhengyi. The Shanghai Procuratorate earlier this month referred Zheng’s case to the courts for formal proceedings on the charge of illegally obtaining state secrets.
HRIC condemns the use once again of “state secrets” as a justification for closed court proceedings, and the arrest of protesters outside of the court. “There is a great deal of public interest in this case, given Zheng’s involvement in a lawsuit alleging collusion between local officials and Zhou Zhengyi,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “If justice is not seen to be done in Zheng Enchong’s case, how will anyone else be willing to take a stand against corruption?”