The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) criticises the Guangzhou City judiciary department for denying journalists entry to a court room to attend the trial of two activists on September 12.
Guo Feixiong and Sun Desheng, who are fighting for good governance and freedom of the press in China, were charged with gathering crowds to disturb public order in January 2013. Several representatives of foreign and Hong Kong media were denied entry to the court room in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, without explanation. Police demanded that the journalists allow their press accreditation to be checked.
An overseas journalist told the IFJ: “We tried for a long time to follow their requirement that we apply for a permit to enter to the court, but received no response at all. Nobody answered our phone calls, even on September 12.”
Several foreign consular officials were also denied entry to the court room.
Guo, 48, whose real name is Yang Maodong, and Sun, 32, were taken into custody on August 8, 2013. The pair were charged after they held up placards and gave speeches at a demonstration outside the headquarters of Southern Weekly after journalists disclosed that the New Year’s Day special editorial had been censored. They also campaigned for disclosure of government officials’ assets.
Guo and Sun’s lawyers refused to attend the hearing, saying the Procuratorate Department did not give them sufficient advance notice and time to read the documents, as required by law.
The IFJ Asia-Pacific Office said: “Under Chinese law, cases related to state secrets are to be tried behind closed doors. However, disturbing public order has nothing to do with secrets. Again the authorities are adhering to the law selectively.”
“This is not the first time the media have been denied entry to a court room, even after they applied for permits in accordance with the rules. Ironically, Zhou Qiang, President of the Supreme Court of China, openly stated on August 27 that all levels of the court system should assist consular officials if they want to attend a hearing. It is clear that this directive was not followed.”
We urge the President of the Supreme Court to investigate the case and ensure that all consular officials and offshore media personnel are able to exercise the right to enter a court room to attend a hearing.