On Wednesday, the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate Court concluded the trial of Xu Zhiyong on the charge of disrupting public order, a crime that can carry up to 5 years in jail. At the conclusion of the trial, Xu was invited to make a final statement, a right afforded to him by Article 193 of the amended Criminal Procedure Law. According to his attorneys, ten minutes into his closing statement, Xu was shutdown by the judge. According to Article 235 of the Supreme People’s Court Interpretation on the Application of the Criminal Procedure Law, the Court is permitted to stop a closing statement:
“After the chief judge announces the conclusion of courtroom debate, the collegial panel shall ensure the defendant’s full exercise of the right to a final statement. Where the defendant in his final statement repeats his opinions several times, the chief judge may stop it. Where the final statement is contemptuous of the court or public prosecutor, harms others or the common interests of society, or are irrelevant to the case, they shall be stopped.” – translation courtesy of China Law Translate
Fortunately, Xu’s lawyers have released his closing statement in its entirety and Yaxue Cao over at the blog Change China has posted the English translation. The document is an important read in understanding the New Citizens Movement, its principles, and why the Chinese Communist Party (“CCP”) is so afraid:
“While on the face of it, this appears to be an issue of the boundary between a citizen’s right to free speech and public order, what this is, in fact, is the issue of whether or not you recognize a citizen’s constitutional rights.
On a still deeper level, this is actually an issue of fears you all carry within: fear of a public trial, fear of a citizen’s freedom to observe a trial, fear of my name appearing online, and fear of the free society nearly upon us….” – Read the Full Translation Here Courtesy of Change China.
While this drama was unfolding in the courtroom, a separate drama was unfolding outside with various foreign journalists being physically harassed by both Chinese police and plain-clothed thugs likely hired by the Chinese police. All of it caught on camera. Here is Martin Patience of the BBC first harassed by police then by a group of thugs:
And here is Mark Stone of Sky News being manhandled:
Finally, CNN’s David McKenzie pushed into a police van and taken away against his will:
On some level, this is comical. Harassing foreign journalists from filming outside of a courthouse? The police had already cordoned off the perimeter of Beijing’s No. 1 Intermediate Court. These guys were going to get no where near the courthouse in the first place. All they wanted was just a backdrop of the courthouse for their story on the trial of Xu Zhiyong.
But instead, they got a whole other story – how the thug-like police state is willing to go on camera and push around foreign journalists with impunity. Granted, with the Chinese government’s fairly strong control of the internet and its ability to prevent videos from getting through firewall, very few Chinese will see these videos. But the rest of the world will. The rest of the world will witness the mafioso-mentality, with hooded, hidden thugs, carrying out what are likely the orders from a high-level Public Security Bureau (PSB) official. Was the trade-off worth it? I would say no.
But does the CCP care what the rest of the world thinks of it? Is this an arm-flexing exercise of the CCP? That international opinion does not matter to them? Certainly these videos are not ones the Chinese tourist industry wants potential tourists to see, but what about Western businesses? Will they think twice now about betting on China? If the past is to provide an answer, Western businesses will continue to look to China for their profits.
Or does it show a CCP that has jumped the shark? That its grip on power is so feeble that it will go to any lengths, including ordering thugs to harass foreign journalists? In his closing statement, Xu Zhiyong seems to think so – that a free society is nearly upon China. But if history is to serve as any guide, the CCP has an uncanny talent of retaining power even when it looks like it is at its weakest. This June will mark the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen protests. Twenty-five years later, the Party that ordered the massacre is still in control. And the people’s protests are still the same.