Wu Guijun’s Case in First Hearing
IHLO, 18 February 2014
Yesterday, 17 February, Wu Guijun’s case was heard in the district court in Shenzhen. More than forty supporters including Wu’s family, workers of Diweixin factory and activists from mainland and Hong Kong NGOs attended the hearing. For many of his friends and colleagues, it was the first time they saw Wu’s face after more than eight months’ detention.
The case was commenced under much pressure and international attention. By now three international trade union federations had launched on-line signature campaigns and more than 5000 signatures had been collected and sent to the government of Shenzhen and the municipal ACFTU calling for Wu’s release. It is feared that the case would set an example of criminalisation when there is no law yet to prohibit tens of thousands of strikes that are taking place every year in China.
The confusion in the court hearing yesterday shows that the judiciary and the public security is caught in a dilemma between punishing the striker and provoking further dismay and international attention.
The Procurator refused to appear in the trial
After delaying about half an hour behind the scheduled time, the defendant’s lawyers announced the procurator’s decision not to appear in the hearing because ‘there were too many supporters’. The judge called off the session without further explanation. However things took a dramatic turn as all the supporters protested the court’s decision and refused to leave. Half an hour later, the judge came back with a replace prosecutor to re-open the hearing. Even the lawyers said they had not run into this kind of situation before.
Avoiding whether strike is a criminal offence or not
Under the Criminal Law, the prosecutor needs only to prove that Wu was the major offender, and the strike and petition had disturbed public order to establish his liability. Strike or petitioning the government for labour protection was not named a crime by the prosecutor. However, acting as the elected workers’ representative, arranging the strike fund and chanting slogans became criminal evidences against Wu. Wu answered that decisions were made by all the striking workers. His lawyers argued that Wu in fact acted as the mediator between the strikers, the police and the labour bureau.
Limited rights of the defendant and lawyers in the criminal procedure
The lawyers were allowed to meet Wu thrice in the past eight months and could barely communicate the defence strategy with him. The defendant’s statement was taken by the public security without informing Wu his rights and it was used by the prosecutor against him in the hearing.
Wu testified that the striking workers had approached the labour bureau and the upper trade union for assistance before petitioning the government on 23 May 2013. There was no reaction from the ACFTU then. And there was no officer from ACFTU to attend the hearing yesterday.
The hearing took an hour before it was adjourned. The next hearing is scheduled to take place on 26 February.
Wu was the worker representative of the workers of Diweixin factory in Shenzhen who went on strike in May 2013 to demand negotiation with the employer over a possible closure and relocation of the factory relocation. Please refer to the other articles for further details of the case: http://www.ihlo.org/C/strikingIsNotACrime/131008.html