The renowned human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang went on trial in Beijing yesterday. Pu Zhiqiang is known and valued well beyond China’s borders for his commitment to the rule of law. The treatment of this dedicated lawyer, who operates as a member of his profession and on the basis of applicable legislation, not only shocks me but also opens up serious questions about how the Chinese Government handles the rule of law.
Pu Zhiqiang has now been held without trial for more than 18 months, more than a year of that without charge. This violates the principles of the rule of law. I am therefore looking all the more expectantly to see due process observed. Given that China’s leaders have declared their intention to strengthen the rule of law in China, a conviction in this case could only elicit incomprehension and criticism, to the detriment of China’s reputation abroad. I therefore call for Pu Zhiqiang to be released.
I furthermore call on China’s leaders to strengthen the rule of law and transparency overall. Among other things, this will mean making it possible for foreign embassies to observe the trial. In that context, I condemn the unusually tough action taken by the civilian security forces against Chinese members of the public as well as foreign correspondents and diplomats yesterday.