Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that the Shanghai Supreme People’s Court will deliver its ruling in the appeal of lawyer Zheng Enchong on December 18 at 10:00 a.m.
According to sources in China, the court informed Zheng’s wife, Jiang Meili, through his lawyers that three family members would be allowed to attend the hearing. In addition, officials informed the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai of the hearing date and invited a representative to attend the proceedings.
Given that Zheng is not an American citizen or resident, and has never even visited America, the invitation extended to U.S. Consulate personnel appears unprecedented. Knowledgeable observers suggest that the invitation is an attempt to dispel tensions that have arisen between the two governments over the controversial case, and is also intended to convince the international community that justice is being served. However, the high-profile handling of the case also suggests that the authorities do not anticipate public embarrassment in the form of a reversal of the original conviction.
According to sources, in spite of the limited notice given for the appeal on December 2, requiring defense counsel to submit written defense statements to the court no later than December 4, Zheng’s lawyer Zhang Sizhi was able to draft an eight-page statement within the deadline. Sources say Zhang Sizhi’s statement emphasizes that crucial errors were made in respect of facts and evidence in the original trial, resulting in a verdict that should not be upheld on appeal.
Zheng Enchong was sentenced on October 28 to three years in prison on charges of “illegally providing state secrets to entities outside of China” after representing more than 500 families in claims against the Shanghai authorities for losses relating to Shanghai’s redevelopment program.
HRIC president Liu Qing said, “We’re glad that Zheng Enchong’s family members and objective observers such as U.S. government officials will be granted access to the appeal proceedings. But the only acceptable outcome of this appeal is for Zheng Enchong to be vindicated and released. Upholding the original verdict will only reaffirm the Chinese government’s practice of prosecuting those who stand up for the rights of ordinary people.”