Lawyers for the family of a Chinese man allegedly tortured to death during an internal Chinese Communist Party (CCP) investigation were thrown out of the court yesterday at the start of the landmark, sensitive trial of six party officials accused of the crime.
Yu Qiyi (於其一), 42, a chief engineer for a state-owned investment firm in Wenzhou, drowned in April after being dunked repeatedly in a bucket of ice-cold water, state media said last week.
The accusations have shed light on the secret workings of the party’s own internal judicial system, one lawyers say is rife with abuse.
The officials — five from the party’s corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, and a prosecutor — were indicted on charges of intentional infliction of harm leading to death. They face a maximum penalty of death.
However, on the first day of the trial in Quzhou, a city not far from Wenzhou, the judge refused to allowed Pu Zhiqiang (浦志強), a lawyer representing Yu’s family, to question the first defendant, and then threw him and his colleague out of the court.
“They’ve expelled us and not allowed us to ask questions of the defendant, which is our legal right... We’re extremely angry about this,” Pu said.
Pu added that the court had also banned the use of the name of the official who probably first ordered the probe into Yu, saying he could only be referred to as “the leader.”
“It’s totally over the top,” he said. “These six people have simply been picked to take the blame.”
Yu’s ex-wife, Wu Qian (吳茜), who was allowed to remain in court, said the party was trying to protect the real instigators of Yu’s death by getting the court to ban questions about who was behind the original investigation, adding: “They’re covering up the truth.”
Chi Susheng (遲夙生), lawyer for Li Xiang (李翔), one of the accused, said she was equally angry at the court’s behavior, as her client wanted to use the opportunity to apologize.
“Li Xiang’s evidence is what brought this case to court,” Cui said. “He wants to be able to apologize in court to the family.”
Neither the government nor the party has publicly given an account of what happened. The story has received limited coverage in state-run media.
It is not precisely clear why Yu was being investigated, according to his family’s lawyers. Si Weijiang (斯偉江), another lawyer who has advised the family, said it was possibly because of improprieties related to a land deal.
Investigators put Yu’s head in a bucket of ice-cold water and held it down repeatedly, eventually causing his death, according to Si. Yu was also beaten and his body scarred by what appeared to be cigarette butt marks.
Photographs of Yu taken by family members after his death showed an emaciated man who was “black and blue,” Pu said.