BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese court on Friday postponed the trial against human rights activist Yang Maodong after his lawyers did not to show up to protest a denial of their right to copy court files.
Quoting family members of fellow defendant Sun Desheng, lawyer Lin Qilei said both Yang and Sun told the court that they would remain silent without their lawyers and that the court then decided to reschedule the trial.
"The court had no choice but to announce the postponement," Lin said.
Yang, better known by his penname of Guo Feixiong, is a veteran activist pushing for greater political freedom and more civic engagement in China.
He was detained in August 2013 after he organized public rallies calling for press freedom outside a media company that complained of government censorship, but the authorities have charged him with gathering crowds to disrupt the public order.
On Thursday, his lawyers Chen Guangwu and Zhang Xuezhong said they would not attend the court proceedings because they could not mount an effective defense after the authorities did not let them copy court files crucial to the case, including videos and photos related to Yang's alleged offenses.
The court did not provide a reason for the ban, Chen said.
Through a statement released by his lawyers late Thursday, Yang said the court had unlawfully deprived him and his legal team of a proper defense. He had vowed to remain silent if the trial went ahead.
Calls to the court after the postponement rang unanswered.
New York-based Human Rights Watch on Friday urged on Chinese authorities to release both Yang and Sun.
"Much of Guo's and Sun's work echoed authorities' stated policy goals, such as fighting corruption, so where's the evidence they violated any Chinese law?" Sophie Richardson, China director at the human rights group, said in a statement.
In January 2013, Yang helped organize demonstrations and gave a speech in support of the editorial staff of the newspaper Southern Weekly in Guangzhou after the journalists said that a New Year's message that called for rule by the constitution was altered because of censorship.
The authorities have accused Yang of disturbing public order, but his supporters say the rallies were orderly.
Yang's lawyers said he admits to no guilt.