The trial of a leading Chinese government critic was recessed earlier this month after members of a handpicked Chinese courtroom audience challenged the character of a government witness and applauded the defendant, unofficial Chinese sources said today.
Since the extraordinary Oct. 17 courtroom outburst reported by editors of the unofficial magazine April 5th Forum, no further trails of Chinese dissidents have been announced. If confirmed, the account of the trial of accused protest march organizer Fu Yuehua would indicate that Peking authorities cannot count on docile reactions even from observers who are government officials and Chinese court employees.
Immediately after the Oct. 17 hearings, court spectators declined to give details to foreign journalists waiting outside. The official New China News Agency reported little more than that trial had been recessed to await more evidence.
But editors of the April 5th Forum, who last week released what appeared to be an accurate transcript of the earlier trail of convicted dissident Wei Jingsheng, said in an interview today that some persons who attended the trial described for them what went on inside.
Fu, a 34-year-old construction worker under detention for the past nine months, was charged with organizing mass distrubances in the form of protest marches down Peking's main street and "libeling" a man she accused of raping her. When a government witness supported the testimony of the man allegedly libeled, and elderly spectator in the audience said he recognized the witness and called him a "hooligan." April 5th Forum editor Liu Quing said the elderly man was a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a prestigious official united front group. The man said he had known the witness some years before, Liu said.
According to the editor's account, the witness then was not longer allowed to testify.
At the trial, according to the unofficial account, Fu continued to insist that the acting party secetary at her brigade, Geng Yutian, had raped her and then covered it up. To counter testimony that he had not beem intimate with her, she described in detail the interior of his apartment.
Fu also argued that demonstrations like one she had joined Jan. 8 to express a number of grievances against the bureaucracy were protected by the constitution.
According to Liu, when the judge said she must have led the demonstration because she marched in front, Fu replied: "But if I had been in back you would have said I controlled it from behing a screen and if I was in the middle you would have said I was in the mainstream."
After her self-defense, Liu said, "The audience applauded her for about a minute."
According to the unofficial account, the audience included many government legal experts and judges from other parts of the country.
They crowded near the door of the small conference room where the panle of one judge and two lay assessors conferred at the end of the hearing. After the court announced a recess in the case, Liu said, one judge from outside Peking told the trail judge he thought "the trial was not confined to the proceedings in the case and the judge stood on the side of the acting party secretary and was not impartial."
A short film clip of the trial was shown Oct. 18 on Peking television news. It included shots of audience reaction and only repeated the short official account of a recess. It did show Fu, her hair in pigtails and wearing a long, multicolored cloak, bow to the court and then to the audience, and expression of gratitude not usually seen in modern-day China.
There has so far been no word of a resumption of Fu's trail, which followed by one day the trial that ended in a 15-year sentence for Wei Jingsheng, editor-in-chief of the unofficial dissident magazine Explorations. jXu Wenli one of the April 5th Forum organizers, said his magazine was not as critical of the government as explorations, but Xu added that he felt Wei did not deserve to be punished for his attacks on party leaders.
Wei was given 10 days to appeal his sentence. Xu said he had heard unconfirmed rumors that the appeal had been made but already rejected by a higher court. At least four or five prominent government critics jailed for the last several months remain to be tried. Despite the Wei verdict, officials still seem to be debating whether such government critics merit prison sentences.
Xu said he hoped the Wei verdict would not bring tougher police action in other cities. He said he planned to put up a wallposter Tuesday protesting what he said was the arrest of two editors of an unofficial magazine in the neighboring city of Tianjin Friday. Xu said plainclothes police detained the two as they posted a wallposter criticizing police interference in their work.
Observers here are puzzled by the appearance in unofficial Chinese circles of what purports to be further testimony in the Wei trial, including a charge by the state prosecutor that Reuter Peking bureau chief Ian MacKenzie offered Wei 300 pounds sterling for some information. Wei was charged with passing military informationto an unnamed foreigner, but MacKenzie was not one of the three journalistss who wrote stories about the information after it allegedly was passed on by Wei Feb. 21.