Mon Dec 14, 2015, 02:40 PM

China puts prominent human rights lawyer on trial

BEIJING — An outspoken Chinese human rights lawyer went on trial Monday for comments he posted on social media that criticized the ruling Communist government.

The trial of Pu Zhiqiang, who faces up to eight years in prison, is sure to have a chilling effect on other human rights activists who openly criticize the government, which has been cracking down on dissent.

Pu, 50, has been in custody for 19 months on charges of “picking quarrels,” “provoking trouble” and “inciting ethnic hatred” in a series of posts he made on Sina Weibo, China's equivalent to Twitter. The government is particularly sensitive to critical social media posts that could go viral.

Pu denied the charges at Monday's three-hour, closed-door hearing at Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court, according to his defense attorney. It was not clear when a verdict and sentence would be issued.

Mo Shaoping, Pu’s lawyer, said in an interview after the trial that his client doesn’t deny writing the posts, but that the court had to prove intent or damage. "This is really a case of freedom of expression, in which no harm to anyone has been proven,” Mo said.

As the trial was proceeding, police and security officials scuffled with his supporters, journalists and Western diplomats assembled outside the courthouse.

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Isn't it wonderful that we indebted to this regime for about $1.3 trillion?

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