The retrial of a high-profile activist who exposed government abuses of China's one-child policy will take place this morning, one week after it was postponed, his lawyer said yesterday.
Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠), who is blind, last month unexpectedly won an appeal against his conviction in Shandong Province on charges of inciting the public and his case was sent back for retrial.
"The retrial begins at 8:30 Monday morning," Chen's lawyer, Li Jinsong, said by telephone.
Li and Chen's other lawyers arrived in Linyi County yesterday to prepare for the trial, and said they were constantly being followed by men who appeared to be part of the police force.
Li said about 30 policemen were preventing him and two other lawyers from entering the village of Dongshigu, where the reported disturbance occurred. Li said they were there to examine the site in preparation for today's trial.
"I reported to the police that these people were illegally restricting my right to personal movement nearly five hours ago, but so far the police bureau has not sent anyone out to stop these people," Li said.
Li, however, was able to meet with Chen's wife and mother, whose home was surrounded by police, Li said.
Li also said that a witness, Chen Gengjiang, who was coerced into testifying against Chen Guangcheng in August was taken away by yesterday.
Li said Chen Gengjiang "told me he had been tortured to say Chen [Guangcheng] made him smash the van. Now he's been taken away the day before the retrial. We're worried the police will threaten or torture him again."
Chen's five-member defense team -- made up of some of China's most prominent activist lawyers and a leading law professor from Beijing -- boycotted the initial trial in August after three of the team's members were detained by police on theft charges the night before the trial. Another was not permitted to examine evidence, while the fifth was beaten bbefore being taken in by police.
Chen, 35, was sentenced in August to four years and three months in jail for "property damage and organizing a mob to disturb traffic."
The activist was accused of getting several members of his family to help damage police cars, Xinhua said. It said his relatives gathered a bigger group that smashed windows at a police station, overturned cars and beat police officers.
Chen's case triggered international condemnation, including from the US government, which called it an example of China trampling on human rights.