Although brutally repressive of critics, the People’s Republic of China has not managed to squelch internal criticism of its rule. One critic of the government’s response to the devastaing earthquake in 2007 is a man named Huang Qi. Huang was rewarded for shining a spotlight on the PRC’s inept response to the disaster by being charged with possession of state secrets (for knowing, among other things, that the government chose to let people die inside collapsed buildings rather than sending rescue teams to pull them out). Which sounds like espionage to me, meaning that Huang is facing a visit from a distinctive police van from which he will not emerge.
You can read some of Huang’s work at his group’s website. Not everything is translated into English, but you can get a sense of what he’s doing and how he’s doing it. The title of the website, 64taianwang.com, translates to “June 4 Celestial Web,” in rememberance of the attacks on peaceful protestors in Tianamen Square of June 4, 1999. (I wrote about that event here, although I’m far from the only person to attempt chronicling it.)
Authorities arrested Huang, and detained him for a while. He wasn’t working alone, and his friends arranged for a team of lawyers to gather evidence and mount a defense in the forlorn hopes that the trial might result in his acquittal. The lead attorney is a man named Mo Shaoping. This morning (about eight hours ago as I write) Mo was given notice that Huang’s trial would start in twenty-four hours.
As any lawyer who has prepared a case for trial knows, gathering evidence and people together is a significant effort. Putting together questions and lines of attack are time-consuming activities, ones which require fairly intense thought. A man is on trial for his life and his attorney gets twenty-four hours to prepare a defense and gather witnesses. This is a farce. Huang might as well be denied a trial and the right to counsel altogether, if his attorney is going to be rendered unable to mount a meaningful defense by the arbitrary and capricious actions of the government.