As in the trials of several other activists this week, the trial of Liu Yuandong (刘远东), Guangzhou-based activist and businessman, ended today without a verdict. Liu is charged with “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place” (聚众扰乱公共场所秩序) and “false declaration of registered capital” (虚报注册资本罪), in connection with a biotech company he established.
Liu is a key initiator of the Southern Street Movement (南方街头运动), a loose network of activists who take street actions in southern China to call for political reform and social justice. On January 7, 2013, Liu gave a speech during a demonstration in support of the Southern Weekly staff’s protest against editorial interference by Party officials.
Sources present at the trial today at the Guangdong Municipal Tianhe District People’s Court said that Liu, looking very thin and haggard but determined, told the court in his statement that he is not guilty of the charges against him, and that if events like the Southern Weekly demonstration take place again, he would not hesitate to join.
Liu’s lawyer Liu Zhengqing (刘正清) said that Liu’s wife and uncle attended the trial, and only two defense witnesses were allowed to testify: Southern Street Movement advocates Wang Aizhong (王爱忠) and Li Xiaoling (李小玲).
According to HRIC sources and information posted online, there was a heavy police presence outside the courthouse, and police physically restrained a lawyer Liu Shihui (刘士辉) to prevent him from attending the trial, and then took him away, along with about a dozen activists. Online information also reports that Lawyer Chen Jinxue (陈进学), who went to the court to submit an application to observe the trial, was wrestled to the ground and reportedly beaten by several security officers. Both Liu and Chen were later released.
According to a tweet by Wang, one of the defense witnesses, in the days leading up to today’s trial, more than a dozen individuals in Guangzhou and Shenzhen were prevented from leaving their home, kept in hotels, or forced to travel to other locations.